Here is my review of A24's Mid90s.
Written and directed by Jonah Hill, Mid90s follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.
In interviews for the film Jonah Hill has talked about the title being a miss direct and the film isn't about skater culture in a particular year in the 90s. I appreciate the open ended nature of his idea on this concept. It allows him to concentrate on the kids rather than touching on a broader culture or nostalgia of the culture. But this is also the ultimate issue with the film. The snippet of life we are given doesn't come across as profound or important. You will enjoy elements and find yourself laughing throughout but the importance of this film will leave your mind once the credits role. With out a nostalgia or a deeper look into the surrounding issues impacting the kids we lose all hope of a poignant look at this culture.
Casting wise the film is all about how talented Alison Jones and Jonah Hill are at finding truthful people. Sunny Suljic and Na-Kel Smith are the most powerful members both in terms of skating and acting chops. Lucas Hedges obviously is a great choice and along with Katherine Waterston the film has it's heavy talents who move the plot along nicely. Sunny is really an explosive find from Hill and Jones as he is the complete underdog that can succeed. Na-Kel brings a real authenticity to the skating as he is a legit star in that realm and he nails the emotional sequences. You find yourself gravitating to their archs and in the end wish you may have visited more into Na-Kel's character and the other 3 kids in the group. Olan Prenatt's FUCKSHIT character is the most unique for he gets to dive into the deepest and darkest areas of the film. You'll yearn for more moments of his character but at least we see his change over time. Gio Galicia's RUBEN and Ryder McLaughlin's FOURTH GRADE have compelling back stories that are barely mentioned and make the film seem lacking overall in it's equality. I found myself doubting the reality of the little white kid being the most rough of the stories when you hear about Ruben, Fourth Grade and Na-Kel's RAY harsher home lives that are never visited only briefly talked about. Fuckshit's continued fall into the darker side of reality seems an add on to lead to the abrupt ending. You can see Jonah Hill has sculpted unique characters but they fully lack depth to actually stick with you.
Music the film is much more subtle than anticipated and does leave the audience yearning for a more obvious touch. I did enjoy a singular moment with the SMITHS playing over the action, but otherwise the musical elements are more in visual presence through Lucas Hedges' IAN. Also the anger felt by the Ian character seems misplaced unless we gather a bit more story about Katherine Waterston's mother character. A single parent household that still allows for three bedrooms and nice clothes for the kids seemed way to convenient for the film. At some point you have to ask yourself if this makes as much sense as the FRIENDS folks affording a penthouse loft in NYC with jobs at the local coffee shop or museum. Especially when you have the emotional element of having characters that are in abusive households, poor and lacking true parental guidance. Once again these are only mentioned by the characters and never seen. Even a scene where young Stevie sees the reality of his friends and we would have had such a more meaningful film.
It's really hard for me to recommend this film since I think there are so many more honest portrayals of the youth culture. You can enjoy the ambition of Jonah Hill, but please look a bit deeper and find films that actually care about showing reality.
For more information on the film:
Written & Directed by Jonah Hill