Time to do a little bit of catching up on the home video front. Below you'll find some brief thoughts on four recent Blu-ray releases: Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade, Charles Stone III's Uncle Drew, Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Kevin Connolly's Gotti.
I first caught rookie director Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade on a whim at SXSW this spring. What a stroke of luck that this off-handed choice turned out to be one of the year's best and most powerful films of the year. Burnham's delicate approach to the ever so indelicate world of the modern teen is emotionally gripping and terrifying in equal parts.
Kayla is a thirteen-year-old suburban girl in her last week of eighth grade before heading off to high school. The film follows her as she attempts to navigate this strange no-man's-land between childhood and adulthood in a day and age where the latter in encroaching on the further more and more. Her fumbling attempts at becoming popular, or at least making popular friends, are thwarted over and over again by a sweet awkwardness that makes her all the more relatable. In search of herself, Kayla finds that she may not be quite as ready to grow up as she thought she was, and perhaps it's okay to hold on to her childhood a little bit longer.
At the center of this bold and truthful slice of life drama is the incredible Elsie Fisher as Kayla. Elsie lays bare her own soul and insecurities in order to fathfully convey the challenges of girls her age. She gives an amazing performance that feels less like a performance and more like an observation in a way that elicits an incredible and unexpected empathy for the character. She's ably supported by a number of other young actors , both friend and foe, who give solid performances as well. Also putting in an incredible turn in a supporting role is Josh Hamilton as her single father trying to understand the emotions of a teenage girl who barely understands them herself.
This is an impressively human and thoughtful piece of work for a first time director and actor who have created something to be very proud of. Eighth Grade is sure to end up on my end of year Best Of list.
I say this a lot, but Eighth Grade is a new film and looks and sounds great.
A24 and Lionsgate have provided an insightful commentary track with Burnham and Fisher that is definitely worth checking out, along with some deleted scenes and a making of featurette that shines some light on the fascinating process of creating such an unusual and empathetic piece. Definitely recommended.