Mid90s: A Relatable Journey That Kick Pushes From Moment To Moment
Jonah Hill has always wanted to be a “writer/director,” and he’s finally done it with Mid90s, a coming of age film that skates moment to moment and kick pushes past the plot. Though decently crafted, unfortunately, this film doesn’t offer much substance to sink your 90s-kid teeth into.
The film follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic), 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 case it weren’t glaringly obvious from the trailer, Hill has pretty much crafted a debut that can best be described as a more commercially accessible (dare I say softcore) version of 1995’s Kids with less darkness and plot. Hill even includes Kids screenwriter, Harmony Korine, in a brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, as well as nods to Kids’ director, Larry Clark, via an insert shot of Clark (or Clarke) brand cigarettes, which don’t appear to be a real brand, so I’ll count that as homage. Although, visual nods to Clark’s films are everywhere here.
That’s part of the problem with Mid90s: most of it feels derivative and/or partially uninspired. It’s clear that Hill wanted to make this film because, for better or worse, there’s lot of adoration for the era and its music crammed into Mid90s’ 84-minute runtime. However, the lack of a distinct voice and something to say is also fairly evident and tends to dwarf all other aspects of this fairly unremarkable coming of age film.
The film drops us into little Stevie’s life (who is wonderfully played by Sunny Suljic), but it never gives us much understanding of why he feels like he doesn’t fit in and where his pariah sense stems from. Surely, a kid of his age with have at least one friend, but not Stevie. All he has before the pack of skate rats is his “wigger-ish” older brother (played by Lukas Hedges) who bullies him. As a viewer, I suppose we’re just supposed to assume that Stevie’s family recently moved to L.A., and that’s the source of his loneliness; although, there’s no information presented to support that assumption either.
This aspect could maybe be overlooked slightly if the film sought to resolve the meager conflicts it builds in its narrative; however, Hill turns a blind eye to plot and conflict resolution almost entirely. This doesn’t become a big problem until the third act, which feels partially incomplete due to its somewhat illogical conclusion — without saying too much, there is an event that occurs toward the end of the film that requires a bigger conversation between the skate rats and Stevie’s mother/Stevie that never occurs. The way Hill plays out his ending just didn’t seem very realistic in a film that is otherwise painstakingly true — again, for better or worse — to its titular time period.
A little too reliant on its playlist soundtrack for its own good, Mid90s feels more like a visual playlist of scenes created around songs, instead of songs included to enhance scenes that could stand on their own. And in doing so, the film skimps on the wonderful soundscape created by Trent Reznor & Atticu Ross, but at least Hill knows when to turn the volume down and utilize silence when it counts.
Ultimately, it’s a decent debut without much to say. It skates past a lot in a little amount of time, hitting on some good moments that rarely pierce through the tip of the emotional iceberg. The young talent (particularly Suljic) are truly a find (and another testament to casting director Allison Jones), but their characters are too weakly drawn to really champion. No doubt, audiences will find something relatable here though, but it will doubtless stand the test of time.
Recommendation: If you’re a skate kid, 90s kid, or Jonah Hill lover, sure, check it out. Anyone else, just go watch Kids and wait for this to stream.
Rating: 3 fisheye lens outta 5.
What do you think? Did Jonah Hill’s directorial debut do much for you? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!