Eighth Grade 2018 ****

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Bo Burnham’s background on social media was one of the main selling points of his coming-of-age tale Eighth Grade, but the writer/director’s first film is a careful, tender and decidedly now film about a girl growing up in the digital age. Burnham smartly doesn’t over-emphasise this; Kayla has a blog, largely unseen, and expresses herself through her tech, but it doesn’t really change anything about her life rather than indexing her many anxieties. Kayla (Elise Fisher) has difficulties with boys are to be expected, but the sweet nature of her relationship with her father (John Hamilton) is far more affecting than might be guessed. All the conversations featured here feel real, like the mall-chat where Kayla’s age is discussed in terms of how mature she was when Snapchat became a thing. A throw-away scene in which the school-children sleepwalk through a drill for a school-shooter reveals Eighth Grade’s charm; the times may have changed, but the essence of childhood, having fun while yearning to be mature, remains much the same.

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Easy A 2010 ****

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Emma Stone rips it up in a star-making performance in Will Gluck’s lively and well-constructed teen movie. Gluck’s Fired Up! demonstrated that he knew his way about campus, and working from a script by Bart L Layton than has the dense deft feel of a good spec, he turns a few clichés inside out here. Stone plays Olive, a smart, sassy girl who pretends to have lost her virginity at the weekend. The notoriety appeals to her, not least because she’s writing a report on The Scarlet Letter (the book, not the Demi Moore film). Soon she’s faking it all over school, or rather, she’s faking being sexually active in return for gift cards provided by boys keen to have a reputation of their own. It’s a scenario that works well at exposing male-female hypocrisy, and Stone gives it her all. There’s support from Malcolm MacDowell as the school head, and Lisa Kudrow as a counsellor with a line in unhelpful advice. The referencing for John Hughes and The Breakfast Club isn’t needed here; Easy A is a teen classic on merit.

So Undercover 2011 ***

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Miles Cyrus is Hannah Montana is Molly Morris is Brooke Stanbrooke is so undercover in So Undercover! So Undercover positions the teen behind the phenomenon of Hannah Montana as a small-time private eye in the Nancy Drew mould but like totes independent. She has dad issues, and when she’s hired by a man purporting to be from the FBI (Jeremy Piven), she also has undercover issues, because he asks her to enrol as Molly Morris at a Yale freshman house. With Kelly Osbourne across the room as her flatmate, Molly is embroiled in a plot involving stolen accounting ledgers. It’s hard to imagine fans of the star or the genre getting excited by a rote McGuffin like stolen accounting ledgers, and it’s kind of obvious from the generic quantity of the result that everyone is on a trial run for something else. That said, it’s not as awful as its straight-to-landfill release in the states might suggest and Cyrus has star quality, not well applied here.