Thanks to Roadshow Films, we got to see the movie Mid90’s. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
Written and directed by Jonah Hill, Mid90’s follows the story of thirteen-year-old Stevie in 1990’s Los Angeles. Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, is largely left to his own devices, and seeks to avoid the violent outbursts of his older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). Stevie begins to hang around a group of skaters who run a Motor Avenue skate shop. Stevie, who is still innocent by comparison, at first slots in with Ruben (Gio Galicia) the other younger member of the group. By gradual degrees of learning how to skate and putting his body on the line, Stevie impresses the older and more respected Ray (Na-kel Smith), the quiet camcorder-wielding Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) and aptly nicknamed Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) enough to be welcomed more fully into the group. Stevie, who throughout seems shockingly young among the teenage and young adult skaters of LA, is launched into the full-breadth of skate culture, to the growing horror of his single-mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston).
In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Hill talks about the slow progress towards his directorial debut, and an awareness that you only get one shot at making a first film – “I waited until I had something to say and Mid90’s is my heart”. The cinematography of Mid90’s sets out from the start to capture the tone and look of 1990’s Los Angeles and takes us straight into the world of concrete, asphalt and sunsets. Many of the shots have a slightly grainy, almost washed out look to them. These visual elements are complemented by a multitude of other indicators of the era – with a soundtrack that features the likes of Nirvana and 2Pac, references to shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wu-Tang Clan posters and Stevie’s symbolic Street-Fighter II T-shirt, Hill has made sure a solid sense of nostalgia is built throughout the film; in this way it feels very personal, infused with his own experience of growing up around skaters in the city.
Hill also chose to cast non-actors in the roles, and lauds the energy with which they threw themselves at the characters: “watching them take it and want to be these people that’s not them is the single most moving experience of my life”. On screen, this translates into performances with an overwhelming sense of honesty. Sunny Suljic brings likeability and sincerity to Stevie’s drift away from innocence, boyhood and his mother. Stevie’s character development ties the film together, and it is difficult not to get pulled into the story as he confronts increasingly harder trials to put himself through. A sense of humour can be found in the film through Stevie’s frustration with learning to skate, as well as in the teenage bravado of Ray and Fuckshit.
There is also a perceivable effort to explore both the positives of negatives of the skate culture, and what values might be instilled in a young boy growing up amongst it. One of the most striking facets of the film is the weight with which the moments of drama and tension have been orchestrated to hit the audience. Ultimately, though, Hill sought to represent skating with “love and respect”. Na-kel Smith makes an impactful performance as Ray and shows us this side to the skating mindset, or perhaps philosophy, which may give Stevie the guidance, companionship and perspective a young boy might need.
At 1 hour and 25 mins, Mid90’s is short by current Hollywood standards, but there is such depth to the development and progression of the story that it absolutely feels full and rewarding. Jonah Hill puts his own stamp on the message of the story with a quietly brewing kick to the ending. Though it may seem like a film geared towards a teenage audience, many adults may be surprised at what they will find to enjoy in this film.
Mid90’s – In Cinemas April 4, 2019