Rob Reviews "Mid90s"
Sometimes, you just gotta kick it old school, and Jonah Hill apparently understands this concept. When he decided to go behind the camera for his first feature film after a little bit of writing, directing a couple of music videos, and a whole lot of acting, he drew upon a simpler time in Los Angeles when all you needed to seize the day was a Discman, the sunshine, and a skateboard as he tells the story of Stevie in “Mid90s”.
Shot on 16mm film in order to frame the moment in time this film captures, Sunny Suljic (who already has “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” and “The House with a Clock on Its Walls” under his belt) plays the above mentioned Stevie, a kid who is simply trying to figure out who he is during the last decade of the twentieth century with a brother that does nothing but terrorize him (Lucas Hedges, who also has some skins with “Lady Bird” and what could get him a ton of attention with the upcoming “Ben is Back”) and a single mother (Katherine Waterson) that thinks she is there for them while not being the best example. As Stevie is riding his bike around town, he comes across a group of skateboarders that captures his attention and as he befriends them, his entire life is turned upside down on every level.
Understand that this film is a true throwback, so it may take a few moments to get settled into it. “Mid90s” reminds me of “Clerks” in many ways, from it’s dialogue that captures the way kids talked to each other to scenery that really becomes a character in itself as these boys explore their hobby and their lives. Suljic is nothing short of brilliant who even at his young age seems to have a firm grasp on the art of acting, using every ounce of his being to convey a true coming-of-age story and the evolution of his character in a very short run time that does not clear ninety minutes.
The supporting cast is all very strong here, with skateboarders Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, and Ryder McLaughlin rounding out the circle of friends that seem like they truly enjoyed each other’s company. Their performances bring Hill’s script to a whole different level, with Smith’s Ray being the angel on Stevie’s shoulder that wants him to live up to his potential, Prenatt’s character (whose name I cannot put here as we are a family show) being the proverbial devil on the other one who needs a party buddy, Galicia’s Ruben being that figure in the middle that wants him to be his sidekick as he has been to the others but has to watch as Stevie starts to take his place, and McLaughlin’s Fourth Grade as what appears to be comic relief but winds up as so much more.
There are many that will criticize this film for what seems to be its simplicity, but I would argue that in said simplicity lies a wonderfully painful story about how complex the middle teen years can be. Being the kind of guy who likes to know as much as he can when fascinated by something, I would love the opportunity to sit down with Hill and just pick his brain as to the idea, writing, filming, and execution of a film that could be seen as the “Kids” of this time for those that may not be that age anymore but want that reminder of what we all go through as those of this generation that may not understand the visuals and some of the references in it but will identify with its themes. What a great film Jonah Hill has coming out of the directorial gate, and I am looking forward to where his career behind the camera goes from here.