Eighth Grade, written and directed by comedian Bo Burnham, follows five days in the life of 13-year-old Kayla Day as she navigates the particular horrors of that awkward school year. The film is a delightful, heart-tugging triumph, and it rests almost entirely on the shoulders of Elsie Fisher.
"I didn't want to think of Kayla as a character," Fisher tells E! News. "She wasn't a character I was watching or someone who I couldn't get a grasp of her entire personality. She was someone I was being."
While Kayla is voted "Most Quiet" by her classmates and struggles with crippling social anxiety at school, at home she films a series of talkative YouTube videos (which amass somewhere between 0 and 10 views each) and earnestly offers advice on how to be more confident. Each clip ends with a chipper sign-off: "Gucci!"
"I think even though Kayla is acting in a sense—she's a little bit pretending about who she is [on YouTube]—they're probably her most authentic self because they're what she aspires to be," says Fisher, "and I think they're really honest."
Authenticity is something that drew Burnham to cast Fisher after auditioning more than 50 girls for the role.
"Every other kid played it like a confident kid pretending to be shy," the 28-year-old director told Collider. "She was the only person that felt like a shy kid pretending to be confident."
As Fisher, now 15, explains to E! News, "That's how I would describe myself. I feel like I'm constantly pretending to be confident. Maybe that's why I like acting."
Although she was discovered at age 4 and voiced Agnes in the first two Despicable Me films, the Southern California native had largely given up on acting before Eighth Grade came along.
But the success of Eighth Grade, which first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018 and has since landed Fisher Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations, overhauled her outlook.
"I just feel like I am a completely different person," she says. "Eighth Grade coming out made me very self-aware and I grew up a lot, which is a good thing. Being more self-aware leads to more insecurities, but I feel like a more rounded out, confident person, and I'm forever thankful for that."
Another discovery: Reflecting on the film's portrayal of how a steady diet of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube informs almost every aspect of teens' lives.
"I really didn't think it was going to change the way I use social media, but it sure as heck did change the way I think about it," says Fisher. "I would argue that I'm probably as addicted as ever if not more addicted, which, I mean, that's not great. But I'm definitely more aware of what it's doing to me and what it does to other people."
Now, she's looking ahead to awards season, where she's hoping to brush elbows with fellow nominees Lady Gaga and Rami Malek.
"I thought Gaga was incredible in A Star Is Born, and I love Queen so much, so Bohemian Rhapsody is automatically one of my favourite movies," she says. "And Rami is one of my favourite actors ever, so please."
Fisher plans to walk each red carpet in a suit—hopefully of the Gucci variety.
"Oh my god. I would love to get some Gucci in there," she says. "We gotta talk to Gucci, ya know. They're hard to get to."
Eighth Grade is in Australian cinemas from January 3.