Most people would take a hard pass at reliving the many pitfalls of puberty. But having the opportunity to watch a pre-teen girl experience her own middle school woes? Well, that's the recipe for a box office success. According to The Wrap, Bo Burnham's directorial debut Eighth Grade just set a new box office record, and it's likely because this movie is as real as it gets.
According to the report from The Wrap, the Elsie Fisher-starring film (seriously, this girl is about to blow up) earned the best per screen average of all indie movies of 2018. It's a big deal for first-time director Burnham, whose film beat out acclaimed director Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs for the same title, but, perhaps, an even bigger one for the stories of young women.
Eighth Grade isn't some gritty western or artsy stop-motion flick. Instead, it's the tale of the hardships a pre-teen girl goes through simply by existing.
Fisher's character Kayla is not a remarkable girl, at least in the sense that she is not a Wonder Woman-esque force of nature. She, maybe, could be you, or your sister, or your neighbor down the street. The important element here is that she's a real girl, moving through the rough waves of adolescence as the captain of her own ship. It's Kayla's story, first and foremost — and people flocked to theaters to see it. Critics, including Refinery29's own Anne Cohen, also loved this Sundance Film Festival darling. Eighth Grade currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 99% fresh.
There was some precedent for the success of Eighth Grade: Greta Gerwig's Oscar-nominated Lady Bird. That film, about a spunky high school senior, over-performed at the box office and weaved itself into the fabric of pop culture. The Saoirse Ronan-led indie even held the title of best-reviewed movie of 2017 at one point during its theatrical run.
Yet the fact is, we can only name so many films that are truly like Eighth Grade and Lady Bird, in that they give "regular" girls a shot at being the star of the story. It's quite rare to see two within a year's span. Hopefully the continued success of these movies has Hollywood realizing it needs to make room for the young girls just trying to figure things out. They may not save the world, but as anyone who has ever lived through middle school can attest, sometimes sheer survival is a win all on its own.