After a recent screening of Eighth Grade at the Los Feliz 3, I ambled out into the late afternoon sun, my eyes still bleary with tears. I’d be lying if I said I never cried in movies (I always cry in movies), but even two decades and some change after my own awkward advancement from middle school to high school, there’s something wonderfully heart-wrenching about watching a young woman in the throes of the age-old struggle to become who she is.
When Kayla, the teen protagonist of Bo Burnham’s breakout indie hit, goes to a pool party hosted by a “cool girl,” you feel exposed for her. When she’s confronted by a older guy who attempts to guilt her into succumbing to his advances, you want to give him the crack in the jaw she’s too overwhelmed to recognize he deserves. It’s an exercise in pathos that’ll make adults want to reexamine their younger selves’ hopes and dreams (with fewer talking stuffed animals than Christopher Robin) and seems suited to be a salve for young teens’ open wounds.
Problem is, actual eighth graders can’t even go see Eighth Grade unless they’re accompanied by an adult; and if you’re in eighth grade, being accompanied by an adult is, like, the last thing you want to be. Because of some curse words and sexually charged situations, the MPAA gave Eighth Grade an R rating, effectively preventing the people who most need to see the movie from seeing the movie. Which fucking sucks (go ahead and give this post an R rating, prudes).
In response, the film’s production company, A24, is hosting free, all-ages screenings of the film all over the country tonight, from Birmingham, Alabama, to Laramie, Wyoming. Here in L.A., the screening is taking place at 8 p.m. the ArcLight in Hollywood; tickets will be available an hour before the screening and are first come, first served. Bring tissues.