Director: Jonah Hill
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut “Mid90s” is a nostalgic coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the feeling of anxiety and self-consciousness of early adolescence.
“Mid90s” follows a 13-year-old boy named Stevie who lives with an abusive older brother and neglectful mother in LA. Looking for a sense of belonging, he stumbles upon a skate shop, where four older skaters take him under their wing. He finds acceptance but he also finds himself pressured to do things he’s never done or things he doesn’t want to do in order to fit in with the older skaters. Hill depicts this in such a way that you feel Stevie’s anxiety, because it is so reminiscent of our growing pains during that period of our lives.
There’s nothing that Mid90s brings us that other coming of age stories haven’t given us before but what sets it apart are the characters, each with his unique and very real struggle. There’s “FuckShit,” the bad boy of the group and easily the most negative influence on Stevie, as he is always trying to find the next big party. “Fourth Grade” is the quiet one, always documenting whatever the group is getting into. Ruben resents Stevie’s growing popularity among the group. Then there’s Ray, who Stevie looks up to the most. In almost an older brother role, Ray shows the most sense of responsibility, often talking about getting out of the hood, with ambitions of being a pro skater. Despite personal beefs in their inner circle, they hold undying loyalty for one another, and you feel the sense of camaraderie.
The cast is comprised of child actors and skaters. Hill cast skaters and taught them how to act, rather than casting actors and trying to teach them how to skate. That gives the story a more authentic feel that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. The actors may or may not be playing themselves (or at least a version of it), but performances are excellent and many of them pop off the screen. From first- time actor Na-kel Smith as the group’s unofficial leader Ray, to a more seasoned Oscar-nominated Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Manchester by the Sea) as the abusive and deeply troubled older brother Ian, every character is memorable and adds his distinct touch to the story.
The 4:3 screen format and a soundtrack that is carefully chosen with songs from Morrissey, Nirvana and Bad Brains among others helps drop us right in the “Mid90s” skate scene. The experiences we feel throughout the film are all too reminiscent of what it’s like to be in a period of our lives where social acceptance and wasting the days away with our friends were the most important things in our lives. Mid90s is worth a look for anyone who is still fond of those memories.