Mid90s Movie Review

As a 90s kid myself, I was fairly interested in seeing the first feature film written and directed by Jonah Hill titled MID90S.  I think there might be a slightly disappointed generation when they find out the film is about troubled youth using skateboarding as an outlet to escape their difficulties at home.

MID90S is a raw and interesting look into the 1990s Los Angeles culture of lower class kids skateboarding, seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy, Stevie (Sunny Suljic). Living with his mom (Katherine Waterson), Stevie receives regular beatings from his older brother (Lucas Hedges).  Stevie is transitioning away from his childhood interests and becomes enamored with skateboarding. Meeting an older group of skater kids, their friendship to Stevie, aka Sunburn, is both invaluable and detrimental.

MId90s

MID90S is more of a character study than anything.  While the film doesn’t completely flesh out in a traditional story format, we do see changes within a character and get to know these kids fairly well without seeing everything in their lives.  It’s a glimpse through one summer window. Definitely an unexpected first film from writer and director Jonah Hill. I can only assume it’s a personal one.

The performances feel completely authentic, almost as if it were a documentary. Hill puts the camera into their lives in that same fashion. Stevie’s new five friends of different age, race and outlandish nicknames feel true to who they are to themselves and in relationship to one another. Na-Kel Smith as group leader and pro-level skater, Ray, and Lucas Hedges as internally tormented mean brother, Ian give two great performances that caused me wanting to dive deeper into their characters.  But it’s Sunny Suljic as Stevie who immerses the audience into this world through his new discoveries.  He’s shy yet incredibly brave. He’s kind but wants nothing more than to be accepted.  His emotions are joyously infectious, from receiving his nickname to landing his first ollie. The fact that he looks about three years younger than what he’s suppose to be and much younger than every other character in the film immediately creates this parental sympathy for him and empathy remembering back when we were children.

MId90s

The hardest thing about MID90S is the poor choices that the kids continually make. Drug and alcohol abuse, constant swearing and disrespect to elders and others, the sexual promiscuity, and drinking and driving especially at such a young age is troubling. It all is a bit overbearing with a lack of consequences for such actions.  These actions might be true to life to the characters and their environment, but I’m not sure what the purpose is within the context of the film or what the filmmaker’s intent is.  And I don’t believe that the far too minimal consequences from these actions truly changes anyone.

It’s not as troubling as 1995’s KIDS, but MID90S, rated R, is a sad look at what the lack of parenting can begat. I’m not entirely sure who the audience is for this film or if I could recommend it.  I respect the intimate view on these troubled kids trying to find their place in the world, however it’s hard to watch them destroy their lives with bad decisions and downright meanness.  While I may have been frustrated with the character actions, I was captivated the entire 84-minute runtime and consider MID90S, if nothing else, an interesting one-time viewing.

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