“Eighth Grade” (A24)

Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher star in a scene from the movie "Eighth Grade." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/A24 Films)

By Catholic News Service

All the varied horrors of middle school are on display in this low-key, moving blend of comedy and drama, written and directed by Bo Burnham. In a riveting performance, Elsie Fisher plays an unpopular teen on the brink of graduation as she yearns for the boy of her dreams (Luke Prael), is pursued by a likable goofball (Jake Ryan), gets put down by a duo of mean girls (Catherine Oliviere and Nora Mullins) and squirms under the loving but overzealous care of her well-meaning single dad (Josh Hamilton). Positive attention from an amiable high school student (Emily Robinson) offers some relief from the protagonist’s isolation but also leads to emotional manipulation by one of her newfound friend’s peers (Daniel Zolghadri).

While it implicitly condemns the low morals of the hookup culture and subtly endorses nondenominational religious faith, Burnham’s screenplay deals with sexuality in a manner that would normally prohibit endorsement for any but grownups. Yet at least some parents may feel that its overall message of hope, together with its warnings against being pressured into getting physical, make the film both acceptable for mature teens and a good starting point for a valuable family discussion.

Much sexual humor, including a brief sight gag about masturbation and a nonexplicit sequence dealing with oral sex, fleeting scatological humor, a couple of uses of profanity, occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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