By Naseem Ally. Mid90s is the coming of age comedy-drama that is centered on 13-year-old Stevie played by Sunny Suljic, who confides in a clique of older skaters that he warms to whilst getting up to various escapades in 1990s Los Angeles.
Jonah Hill makes his directorial debut with this film and admittedly he’s off to a great start. In Mid90s, Stevie is essentially an awkward kid who is looking for a sense of belonging. This is something I’m sure most of us can relate to.
For instance, unbeknownst to his older brother, Stevie sneaks into his room and is enthralled with the collection of hip hop albums, posters, clothes and video games that defined this golden era. However, the older brother, Ian, is not too fond of the 13-year-old and is often looking to inflict pain on Stevie.
As well as not getting along with their single mother, Dabney, Stevie finds solace with the skateboarders that hang out at the Motor Avenue Skateshop.
At the Skateshop he meets an equally awkward young skater, Ruben, who introduces Stevie to the rest of the crew. Eager to prove himself with gnarly, daredevil-esque tricks on his new skateboard, he begins to win the respect of his peers and gets affectionately known as ‘‘Sunburn’’.
With this new found acceptance, Stevie feels a lot bolder and starts to partake in anti-social behaviour with the skaters in the City of Angels.
His mother begins to get concerned with his antics and attempts to refrain Stevie from socialising with them. At this point, Stevie is on board with whatever the crew decides to get up to, and there is no turning back as far as he’s concerned. With this turn of events leading Stevie to break out of his shell in an extreme manner, Ian feels the need to reel back in his younger brother.
Their complex relationship makes for some powerful scenes, one in particular, involving Ian witness Stevie arriving home intoxicated.
This constant push and pull is done to great effect, as although Stevie’s family seem to be cold towards him, there is a sense of remorse that they have been the catalyst of Stevie’s isolation. As a result, forcing him to find a new family with these skaters that do care and look out for him, but sometimes it can be to the detriment of Stevie.
In other words, skating comes with ollies as it does with bumps and bruises on the asphalt. This film manages to cover a few of the themes found in coming of age movies, but Mid90s does this extremely well.
Supplemented by an amazing score, Jonah Hill has captured the sound and vibe of the 90’s beautifully. His work with Martin Scorsese on The Wolf of Wall Street seems to be paying off as well, as there are some truly wonderful tracking shots in this film of Stevie’s friend making his way through a house party.
There is a great shot of the group skating through busy traffic in Los Angeles. For a directorial debut Jonah Hill has made a solid piece of work, backed by a fairly unknown cast that have been able to hold their own and really carry this film.
No small feat at all.
With Mid90s I get the feeling that Jonah did not aim to create a critically acclaimed darling, but more of a passion project that he’s kept close to his heart. It’s been described by some critics as a film made in the mid-nineties, put in a shoebox, shoved under a bed and then opened up twenty years later revealing all its nostalgia…yeah, that’s just about right.
Thumbs up from me!
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