Justin Chang

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The city of Oakland, Calif., is experiencing something of a renaissance moment in the movies. You could trace it back to 2013, when the Oakland-born director Ryan Coogler made Fruitvale Station, his ripped-from-the-headlines drama about the fatal police shooting of Oscar Grant III.

After seeing Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham's enormously affecting new movie, you might assume that a lot of the dialogue was improvised. Most of it was, in fact, carefully scripted, which makes it all the more remarkable: It's been a while since I've heard a screenplay so fully master the awkward, hesitant rhythms of everyday teen speak. Burnham's young characters talk in long, rambling but more-or-less coherent sentences, each thought punctuated with a perfectly timed "um" or "like" or "you know."

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