Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
This impressive directorial debut from Jonah Hill is a coming-of-age story of 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic). Stevie is growing up in 1990s Los Angeles and spends his summer trying to find out where he belongs. His home life consists of his older teenaged brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges), viciously beating him when his mother, Dabney (Katherine Waterston), isn’t around. One sunny summer day Stevie leaves his home and wanders the streets of Los Angeles. When he enters a Motor Avenue skate shop, he finds a family away from home.
With a title like Mid90s you need to make sure you accurately depict that time, and Hill does. He knows the streets of Los Angeles and brings vividly both the city and the 90s to the screen. He does this by shooting on Super 16mm film with a 4:3 aspect ratio. However, Hill makes precise connections to the 90s that can easily relate to today. The first of which is making skateboarding the activity that connects Stevie and his friends. Then there are Hill’s themes of loneliness and connection that can relate to any teenager’s experience. Hill is so specific with his directorial debut that Mid90s can relate to audiences who grew up in the 90s, but also those growing up today.
His Script is written with immense detail to his flawed and authentic Characters. Every character we encounter is multi-dimensional. Most particularly the character of Ian, which is captivatingly played by Hedges, who has a painfully-wounded soul laying beneath his violent actions. The teenage boys Stevie becomes immediate friends with have an effortless banter that alleviates the loneliness Stevie experiences. Hill has stated he left room for improvisation in the scenes between the boys. The trust he had in his Cast paid-off because it gave way for authentic comedic scenes.
The entire Ensemble Cast, which primarily consists of unknown Actors, are compelling, however, none more so than the young upcoming talent, Suljic. It’s rare that a teenager carries the weight of a Film on their shoulders, let alone carry it effortlessly. Yet that is precisely what Suljic does. The intricacy to his character and the complexity of his performance is a tremendous feat for any Actor let alone considering his young age. And Hedges continues delivering compelling performances, just one of many this year including Boy Erased and Ben is Back. This time he tries his hand as the physically violent older-brother. Hedges has found a way to provoke empathy for this antagonist-like character. The rest of the Cast, consisting of Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia and Ryder McLaughlin, each make impacting performances.
Overall, Mid90s is an all-around great first feature for Hill and has an amazing original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
VVS Films release MID90s Friday, October 26, 2018.