09th Jan2019

Review Round-up: Eighth Grade / My Dinner With Herve

by Jak-Luke Sharp

EIGHTH GRADE

Stars: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger, Imani Lewis, Luke Prael, Catherine Oliviere | Written and Directed by Bo Burnham

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Eighth Grade is the directorial debut of comedian and online sensation Bo Burnham. In his first foray behind the camera, he chooses a rather strange and unique subject with thirteen-year-old Kayla Day, played by the fantastic Elsie Fisher, and her awkward journey from middle school to the nightmarish and anxiety of high school.

First things first, I can’t praise the lead performance from Elsie Fisher enough. The intuition and layers showcased in such a raw and emotional arc is profound. Way beyond her years, yet perfectly balanced in beautifully effective melancholy of an era everyone went through but would most undoubtedly want to forget. Fisher is the heart and embodiment of the picture. Without her performance, Eighth Grade falls into predictable entertainment territory. Burnham’s comedy is also incredibly self-assured in a confident and deeply affectionate manner with a terrific dry wit.

The issue arises with how generic and ultimately pedantic each scenario develops into predictability. Eighth Grade just doesn’t inject or showcase anything new or impressionable upon the audience. Even when it touches on deeply emotional issues that are serious in nature the film wants to move on as quickly as possible, somewhat. Ultimately the severity and depth doesn’t quite resonate as strongly as it should or needs to.
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MY DINNER WITH HERVE

Stars: Peter Dinklage, Jamie Dornan, Frida Munting, Harriet Walter, Laurence Ubong Williams, Jim Sturgeon, Daniel Mays, Sabina Frankly, Oona Chaplin, Michael Elwyn | Written by Sean Macaulay, Sacha Gervasi | Directed by Sacha Gervasi

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My Dinner with Herve, directed by Sacha Gervasi, is infamously based on an article that documented the last wild and chaotic few days in the life of actor and extraordinaire Hervé Villechaize in 1993. However, what makes this picture all the more curious and bizarre, is that director Sacha Gervasi is also the journalist who wrote said article back in 1993! Striking up a kindred friendship with the psychologically and physically wounded performer, discussing and debating all manners of personal parameters into a compelling piece of journalism of what would ultimately be realised as Villechaize’s last confession to the world.

The plot and narrative on display in My Dinner with Herve are deeply subversive and entertaining, with an enlightening poignant melancholy – an uplifting and invigorating story that personifies the conquering and ultimately absolving of pain in a tragic but subtle depth, layered with a heartfelt and sincere discussion/depiction of trauma. Jamie Dorman playing pseudonym Danny Tate is a career-best for the often-underutilised performer. A common man plagued with wounds that are far bigger than what proceeds his ego. Even with Dinklage’s outstanding performance and overarching role as the titular character, Dorman keeps his head above the water with a strong engaging screen presence and an airtight conviction due to a balance of performance and screenplay with rounded equilibrium paved throughout from writers Sean Macaulay and Sacha Gervasi.

Implied briefly above. The stand out here is, of course, the performance of Peter Dinklage as titular character Hervé Villechaize. On paper, it’s a somewhat straightforward romanticised role. An outrageous character filled with moments of twisted melancholy and chaotic intensity. The crafting of Hervé Villechaize as an intensely flamboyant and emotionally destructive personality on screen, however, is a totally different ballpark. A performance as such could so easily dip into tone deaf territory but thankfully it is that of the romanticising and immersive natural flamboyance of Dinklage himself, who shapes the material into a deeply endearing and effective character study.

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