- Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is a beautifully authentic look at a kid trying to find acceptance in LA.
- If you’re a fan of ’90s music, get ready for this soundtrack.
We’ve seen Jonah Hill evolve from playing the comedic roles to impressive dramatic performances, and now we are about to witness his latest evolution: being a director.
With the release of “mid90s” (opening October 19), Hill has created one of the most heartwarming movies of the year as we follow the life of young teen Stevie (Sunny Suljic), as he tries to find the acceptance and love that he can’t get at home.
Set in the (you guessed it) mid-1990s, Stevie is an LA 13-year-old who spends most of his time wanting to gain the acceptance of his older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges), but instead gets beat up by him. With his mother (Katherine Waterston) never around, Stevie spends most of his time away from home and that hunger for friendship finally lands him at a skate shop.
There friends Ray (Na-kel Smith), F—shit (Olan Prenatt), Ruben (Gio Galicia), and Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), spend their days skating and teasing each other.
Stevie is instantly drawn into their world and finally finds acceptance when, while hanging to the side while they all skate, Ray asks him, “Go fill up this jug of water.” Stevie grabs the plastic jug and races to the faucet to fill it as quickly as he can. That simple sequence sets the tone for the entire movie. That one small gesture of recognition proves to Stevie that someplace in this world he actually belongs.
Now that’s not to say that “mid90s” doesn’t have a little edge to it, because it certainly does. Hill is introducing us to the skate culture, not the Boy Scouts. We watch as Stevie drinks and smokes with the guys, hooks up with a girl, and takes a really nasty fall off a roof while trying to show off his skating skills. And then there are his troubles at home, which get really dark at one point. But through it all, Hill brings it back to friendship and how even when things are at their most dark, friends are there to pick you up.
Hill has an incredible eye for talent, as he casts an unknown group of actors to play his leads, and all of them give a very improvisational feel.
And then there’s the authenticity of the movie itself. Shot on Super 16mm with a 4:3 aspect ratio (meaning the screen is going to be narrower than most movies you see in theatres), it beautifully captures an era when smartphones and social media were on no one’s minds. And the music of the era is everywhere, from the Wu-Tang Clan to Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.”
Though there have been many comparisons to Larry Clark’s iconic 1995 movie “Kids” when talking about “mid90s,” in actuality this is the anti-“Kids” movie. Though both look at young kids in a don’t give an f— culture, Hill sets his apart by making it so inclusive. His characters just want to have a good time.
It’s one of those rare stories these days that looks at the beauty of life, rather than the parts that suck.
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