Eighth Grade, the directorial feature debut from comedian Bo Burnham, is a cringingly honest and accurate examination of adolescence. It takes place so distinctly now, with none of the polaroid-fuzzy affection of nostalgia. Case in point: the scene above, in which Kayla (Elsie Fisher) eats dinner absorbed in her phone while her well-meaning father (Josh Hamilton) attempts to make conversation.
Burnham, who’s only 27 himself (“It’s out of touch for a story like this, trust me”), went straight to the source to find authentic depictions of the way kids today behave on the internet.
“The great part of it is, if you want to know what kids are doing, the research is self-published by them,” the writer-director said. “I don’t have to go around and shadow a bunch of middle schoolers — they are posting everything about their lives. It’s the great thing about the internet: the ability to research is so easy, and almost too easy where it’s like overwhelming how much information is out there. You have to comb through it to find if there’s anything of value. It really was just watching YouTube videos. My Chrome history is probably a little shaky — ’13 year old pool party.’ It really was just watching videos, transcribing what they said, trying to capture their voice, literally at first, and then once I felt like I was literate in the way they spoke, writing my own thing.”
The film’s teenage protagonist, Kayla, sends YouTube videos about herself off into the void of the internet, an audience of no one. Each video ends with her signature sign-off: “Gucci!”
“It’s hers!” Burnham answered when asked where that perfectly idiosyncratic phrase originated. “I didn’t know it either. On set, [Elsie] would just say it all the time — we would ask how she was doing and she’d say, ‘Gucci!’ So all of us started doing it back to her, just to be embarrassing adults, and by the end, it was literally be crew guys going, ‘Is this gucci?’ [Kayla’s videos] were recorded the last three days of the shoot, and I had wanted her to sign off with a little inside joke, and it was like, oh, it should just be ‘gucci.’ I don’t really know what it means but I like that it’s a little bit of her, and she literally has the last word of the movie. I don’t get it, but I like how it immediately signals that stupid little shit you said when you were that age, that maybe had no meaning, maybe its only meaning is that you’re saying it over and over again — those weird inside jokes you had at that age.”
Watch the clip above, and then go call your parents and tell them you’re sorry.