Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2018. A24. Screenplay by Bo Burnham. Cinematography by Andrew Wehde. Produced by Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Christopher Storer, Lila Yacoub. Music by Anna Meredith. Production Design by Sam Lisenco. Costume Design by Mitchell Travers. Film Editing by Jennifer Lilly. Golden Globe Awards 2018. Independent Spirit Awards 2018.
Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is thirteen years old and handling it as best as she can. At school she hides from the students who intimidate her, particularly a popular girl who treats her with contempt, and a boy she has a crush on who is barely aware of her existence. At home, her father (a wonderfully sincere Josh Hamilton) tells her how much he loves the way she is growing up but she treats him with the classic level of disdain that teenagers reserve for their dreaded parents. Despite all these poor connections with the people around her, Kayla takes to her webcam every day and records online videos, performing self-help instructional monologues about popularity and self-worth and not at all realizing the amount of unnecessary extra pressure it puts on her to conquer these subjects. Director Bo Burnham’s contribution to the genre of coming of age films is a gem despite having little original content, buoyed along by Fisher’s brave and frequently hilarious performance and the spontaneous chemistry she shares with her co-stars. Films about teens going through a rough time tend to focus on the later years, near the end of high school after puberty has done its worst; making this film about a young woman’s middle-school trauma and the bad skin that comes with it gives it a feeling of freshness, while presenting her life as the very opposite of a Disney TV show feels downright revolutionary. Burham explores the dark side of social media and smartphone technology (like the fact that thirteen year-olds feel pressure to be great at blow jobs) in a frank but never preachy manner, always emphasizing how funny and endearing his main character is.