'Mid90s' (2018) - Film Review
"Looks Cool To Me"
Mid90s is a coming of age drama that follows a 13-year-old kid and his navigation between a troubled home life and his new friends that he has met at a skate shop.
- Set in 1990s Los Angeles, Stevie is constantly beaten up by his brother Ian and has a dysfunctional relationship with his mother. With no sign of a father, and no sign of any friends, he see's a group of boys hanging around a skate shop, doing tricks and instantly wants to become a part of it.
- He watches them as they skate and when one of the boys, Ruben, asks him to fill up their water, he does so joyfully. The boys are all teenagers from very different backgrounds but come together for their love of skateboarding and Stevie befriends them, becoming part of their group.
- The boys take Stevie under their wing, especially the character of Ray, the leader of the group. He is someone who wants to make it out of the poor environment they are in and try to become a professional skater. However, Ray is constantly dragged down by his best friend, FuckShit, who only cares to party.
- The movie follows them and their daily exploits, making it clear that skating is pretty much all they have. It is a glimpse into the reality of teenagers in 90s LA, and a representation of how there will always be different people in your life. It's who you choose to take influence from which will define you and the path you go down.
Positives of 'Mid90s'
- I loved this film, from the amazing cinematography to the respectful and supremely realistic depiction of 90s LA. For someone who has no real idea about skateboarding but has a great interest in the culture, clothing and music, the film is a dream. The acting performances are outstanding and the direction Jonah Hill wanted to go with is clear and I was instantly hooked.
- Jonah Hill - The movie is Jonah Hill's love letter to this time and environment, which he passionately wants to express through cinema. His attention to detail to create a nostalgic depiction of what 90s LA is commendable and brilliant. His storytelling instantly grabs you and you're interested in what these kids are doing and what will happen to them. Hill even found skaters from the street to play his lead roles, making the film even more authentic. The movie takes some really serious issues and represents how these young men deal with these situations. You can really appreciate how personal this was for Hill and as it is his directorial debut, I see it as a great success.
- Cinematography - The cinematography was done by Chris Blauvelt and this aspect of the movie is fantastic, as there are many shots of teenagers skating around LA, with the sun slowly going down, creating a real aesthetic feeling to the movie. The film is shot in 16 mm, in a 4-3 ratio, which really adds to the 90s feeling of the film. It's all about nostalgia and creating as authentic a period piece, as possible. There are two memorable scenes where the boys are skating down the freeway, with cars passing by, but they have no care in world. It's all done in one shot and I thought it was a really amazing piece of cinematography and captures exactly what the movie is about.
- Music - The score was created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and is a reflection on Jonah Hill's music tastes, as he has stated, "Hip pop was the emotional back bone of him growing up," and you really feel this in the movie. From Morrissey to A Tribe Called Quest on the soundtrack, Hill really wanted to make a respectful depiction of the time. The drops of 90s tracks, from a variety of different artists, provide a really cool aspect to the movie.
"Lotta the time we feel are lives are the Worst"
Performances of Note
The acting in this movie is one of its strongest aspects, as I don't think anybody puts in a bad performance. The acting is especially amazing as some of the actors had not acted before and were just street skaters, hand picked by Jonah Hill.
- Na-Kel Smith (Ray): This performance was my favourite and I thought he was outstanding, especially as he had no acting experience before Mid90s. He plays the leader of this group and you really feel how much he wants to get out of this life and make skateboarding his career. He almost becomes Stevie's father figure and wants to do right by him. There is one scene where he is talking to Stevie and he is almost hypnotic, his facial expressions and tone of voice really relate to the audience and he just seems like a decent and genuine person. Amazing performance
- Sunny Suljic (Stevie) - His performance is ridiculously good, as he carries the movie and was only 11 when filming started. The way he is able to show his progression as a character, in a short amount of time, is mesmerizing. His persona and the way he acts is different dependent on which character he is talking too and you can really see this change in persona. Suljic was outstanding and he has a long career ahead of him.
- Katherine Waterston (Dabney): As one of the more established actors in this movie, you may think she would struggle to fit in with the authentic feeling the movie tries to go with. This is not the case at all, as she plays the role of Stevie's mom fantastically well. In what I see as the hardest role of this film, she manages to make you feel sorry for her, even though she hasn't got the best parenting skills.
- Lucas Hedges (Ian): In what was a breakout year for Hedges', he plays the role of Stevie's depressed and lonely brother magnificently. The chemistry between Hedges and Suljic, or lack of brotherly love, is really relatable. Many people watching would see themselves in this situation and see the difficulties they both have being around each other. However, in a scene near the end of the film, Hedges acting skills come to the fore and he is able to express his feelings without words.
"How long you been friends with those guys"
Negatives of 'Mid90's
I really do not have many negatives to this film, but there are few minor points which I think could have aided the movie.
- The character development I think could have been fleshed out more. Ruben is key for the narrative, but you only hear small snippets of his past. I think if you were told more about him, you would perhaps understand why he may act the way that he does. This can also be compared to the character of Ian, as you never really know why he acts the way that he does. Perhaps more development of these characters would have allowed me to understand them more.
- The dialogue may be looked at negatively, as some of the terms and word choices could be looked at as negatively in 2018. I happen to think it only adds to the realistic feeling of the 90s, as the dialogue resonates with the time in which the film is set. However, I can understand why some may see this aspect as a negative.
"That's why we ride a piece of wood. Like, what that does to somebody's spirit"
This is a fantastic film and I would recommend giving this a watch. You do not need to know anything about skating to enjoy this movie, however, if you do enjoy skating, it's an awesome depiction of that life in 90s LA. I was hooked into the lives of these characters and I was genuinely interested about them. For Jonah Hill's first movie, I see real potential in filmmaking. His attention to detail is second to none and the casting choices were superb.