October 25, 2018

GENRE | Jonah Hill Remembers the 'Mid90s' Fondly

Sunny Suljic Jonah Hill | Mid90s

Actor turned first-time filmmaker Jonah Hill really shows his reverence for west coast skateboarding culture of the 1990s. Hill's film is such a carefully constructed time capsule of youth. Full of deeply authentic touches, Mid90s is such a loving portrait of adolescent bonding and a sense of longing to belong.

Starring a very scrawny, thirteen-year-old Sunny Suljic as a very typically disaffected teen, Stevie, Mid90s centers on his development through acting out and finding community with a bunch of fellow misfits. It's such a pure performance of teenage boredom and curiosity that captures the spirit and specific culture of the early-to-mid '90s. How Hill and Suljic use emotional concepts of repression, sibling abuse, and how it manifests into feelings of wanting to be a part of a tribe or group ring true.

A very atypical Lucas Hedges is hilariously deadpan portraying such a fully-realized but deeply sad character in Stevie's bully older brother, Ian. Essentially a poser with the pitch-perfect taste for the time in clothes, music, and style, his portrayal is so clearly drawn out through deft touches and choices. Katherine Waterston as Stevie and Ian's young single mom provides an earnest depiction of heartfelt but clearly lackadaisical parenting at a distance.

Sunny Suljic Na-kel Smith Jonah Hill | Mid90s

Standout Na-kel Smith, as an older skateboarder and the talented one in the group of troublemakers Stevie adopts, gets a few touching moments and lines of dialogue that recreates that sense of youthful indiscretion so earnestly. Surrounded by a cast of newcomers and non-actors, Hill's casting adds another sheen of naturalistic authenticity that makes the coarse hijinx depicted all the more nostalgic.

Filmed on grainy Super 16mm film by cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt in the boxy 4:3 Academy ratio, the film's look faithfully recreates the style of skateboarding highlight reels of the time to a tee. It's impressive how all the cinematic elements and Hill's filming choices come together to make the specific dramatization of punk skater kids just chilling, getting into trouble, and growing up feel so pure.

Mid90s is an impressive filmmaking debut and Hill clearly made the film he envisioned with such specificity and reverence. At a lean eighty-four minute running time, he wastes no time and hits all his points about teenage male angst and rebellion so economically through his semi-autobiographical experiences hanging out skateboarding.

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