“Just because someone chooses to leave, that doesn’t mean they didn’t wanna be here with you. It means they had a hard time of things.”
From the opening scene, to the last moments of an instrumental Skinny Love, Jim Cummings proves himself to be a competent full-scale director, writer, and actor who has largely fallen by the wayside in a year where the role of fathers shone through. From Eighth Grade to Blockers to Custody, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly (respectively): and now, with Thunder Road, we have an image on par with the matriarchal powerhouse performance of Charlize Theron in Tully or Carey Mulligan in Wildlife in the soft corners of the father figure we all deserve to admire.
A truly brilliant and incandescent work about a psychologically unsuitable human being who overcomes his mental and material problems with the poise of a hero in disguise. A comedy with profound moments of grief that walks circles around the sentimental Hollywood box office drivel that adds nothing to the psychological experience of thinking through films and being changed for the better. Emotionally rich and unapologetic, Thunder Road delivers one of the finest struggles in view of the fatherhood model for raising a girl in fourth grade and in a year where Bo Burnham does the same for girls in middle school.
A remarkable achievement that South By Southwest was right to acknowledge. I look forward to what Cummings has next.
A probing look into the psychological and physical existence that has become our internet age, comes a film that teaches a profound lesson that may very well be the most important lesson a parent can impart to their children before middle-school: keep going, keep trying. Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher offer an impressive combination of acting and writing in what will likely be this year’s most important film.
Eighth Grade tells the story of a girl on the brink of her high-school debut. Her life revolves around checking social media and posting life-lessons on YouTube that nobody watches. She is stupendously awkward and innocent, constantly tempted by the popularity and perversity of others to sell out and become another pod in the garden of self-replicating noise machines. And while her own existence doesn’t exactly speak a level of depth typically desired for building multi-dimensional people, she is uniquely qualified to stay the lesson of self-improvement. And while she remains largely non-existent from the standpoint of the social media celebrities that absorb our times and curtail our ability for meaningful time-allocation, she is the perfect embodiment to teach others those lessons all kids need to learn.
The lesson that they should invest in themselves even thought they may fall short of the achievement of others. The lesson that the prison of our own inability to relate or communicate with others should not make us slaves to our own potential for overcoming the deficiency of yesterday. The struggle to find friendship is crippling, but it does not have to define us in a way that makes us weak in isolation. The lesson that the capacity to grow and interact with your world as an individual does not demand that we conform to the mindless habits of predatory boys or girls sick with vainglory. The lesson to keep going & keep trying, no matter what. The lesson that love overcomes distance — fathers remain protective, watchful, and involved even when your daughters seem aloof, because a moment will come when your presence becomes a sanctuary city. In short, Eighth Grade is a moving piece of optimistic, self-realization that we need to guard jealously our time for self-improvement, but we also need to learn to forgive ourselves when we fail to get as far as we’d like. While the movie doesn’t connect the audience to the perils of social media like episodes of Black Mirror aptly do, it does teach competently the valuable lessons of where we are and how we can help one another to overcome the lesser angels of our youth.
With Blindspotting, we saw an Oakland convict yearning to overcome the demons of his past. In Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot, we saw a paralyzed cartoonist striving to overcome the demons of his present. And in Eighth Grade, we see an awkward teenager striving to overcome the demons of her future.
Keep Going, Keep Trying.