It is with pleasure to state that Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is a success. Good old fashioned American independent stylised filmmaking is a great way to begin a writing/directing career. Jonah Hill’s fifteen year acting career has paid off as the two time academy award nominee has learnt from the best. Any film buff can see that Hill has taken a good influence from Martin Scorsese. What conversations did Jonah strike with Marty? “Talk to me about your one camera steady cam technique with no edits,” would have been a possible question. This technique is clearly visible in the excellent Mid90’s as well as other techniques. American Arthouse hits hard and any indie film lover should make this film a top priority to indulge in, just for the simple reason, ‘Mid90’s’ is impressive, relatable and nostalgic to anyone that grew up in the 90’s. It was the best decade ever as CD’s is still better than iTunes and Blockbuster is better than Amazon Prime.
‘Mid90’s Follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 1990s-era Los Angeles 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. Here is where he learns that sometimes our friends can replace our family for better or worse. Stevie will learn the value of earning respect and taking huge risks to work his way up the pack. One can compare this film metaphorically to an ‘Animal Kingdom.’
It is relatable to feel loneliness and want friends and to feel wanted. Stevie, played brilliantly by Sunny Suljic carries this film with huge weight and triumphs. From his noticeable performance in ‘The Killing of a Scared Deer,’ playing Colin Farrell’s and Nicole Kidman’s son, Suljic is working his way to the top of child actors, way up there with the cast of ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘It.’ The now fourteen year old deserves to be noticed. In ‘Mid90’s he suffers domestic violence from his brother played by Academy Award nominee Lucas Hedges. When Stevie starts at the bottom of the pack, he does daring initiations to gain respect: Skateboarding on a roof with a hole, falling through the hole and bleeding to death is one example.
Suddenly we are captivated by Stevie’s journey and coming of age. To see him innocent and loving towards his mother played beautifully by Katherine Waterston, then to turn aggressive and throw tantrums is an empathetic feeling for the audience. We will do anything to fit in with our gang, even if it means defying our mother as mothers apparently know best. “Stay away from my son,” is a clichéd line, but a common one if Stevie’s friends teach him to grow up too quickly. When the influence of smoking weed, drinking alcohol and partying with girls kicks in, we begin to be indecisive of who to listen to. Mother, who wants to protect her son, or Stevie’s friends who are cool, but will drag him down the wrong path. Perhaps children are children and when big mistakes occur and it will, should they be allowed to make these mistakes even if it will lead to serious consequences?
Jonah Hill has directed this film close from his heart. There may be minor flaws, which is a coming of age film has been done to death and nothing original occurs around a kid in a skateboarding culture. Larry Clarks ‘Kids’ is the best known film around the subject and last year’s ‘Skate Kitchen’ had the same premise from a female’s point of view. What is intriguing is ‘Mid90’s can be compared to ‘This is England.’ Especially a risqué scene where Stevie is at party with drink and drugs. Here there is a graphic scene where he kisses and fondles a girl only a couple of years older than him. The audience don’t know whether to be disappointed in him or to say ‘get in there son.’ At least Stevie has something to brag about to his friends and gain the respect. Let’s face it! It’s something that every thirteen year old boy wishes they could brag about. The fact that Stevie goes further than second base is how he works his way up the pack.
Overall, ‘Mid90’s is worth watching. If you’re a Jonah Hill fan where you want to see his work behind the camera is reason alone. However a good coming of age movie is hard to come by as so many average ones exist. ‘Hill’s directorial debut is above average and up there with the best from the past year: ‘Ladybird,’ ‘Love Simon’ and now ‘Mid90’s’ can now belong in that realm.
Aly Lalji | [rating=4]
Drama | USA, 2018 | 15 | 12th April 2019 (UK) | Altitude Films | Dir.Jonah Hill | Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Ryder McLaughlin, Gio Galicia