But what year exactly?
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives a pretty dull life in Los Angeles, during the 90’s, with his mom (Katherine Waterston), who’s barely ever around, and brother (Lucas Hedges), who clearly has mental issues and treats him like total garbage. The only solace he seems to get in this boring life of his is with his skateboard, which he constantly practices at, day in and day out, in hopes of getting better and noticed by some of the much more experienced skaters that he sees hang around the local parks. Well, eventually, that happens and it isn’t long before Stevie is all wrapped-up into this life of skating, drinking, smoking, adolescence sex, and all sorts of chicanery that makes him finally feel like he’s apart of something and happy, even if, in the long-run, it may have some lasting effects.
Mid90s is the kind of movie that wraps you up in its spell for the whole 90-minutes it’s on the screen. It’s energetic, fun, infectious, and most of all, well put-together, which makes it all the more impressive that this is Jonah Hill’s directorial debut. He clearly knows a thing or two about framing a shot and how to capture a moment for all of its small, subtle beauty.
But that said, when it’s all over, it’s hard to really remember what it was about, or even what it was trying to say. In this case, it seems like Hill is clearly taking a lot from his own life and throwing it onto the screen, but at what cost? Is it to relate to others out there who may have had the some childhood-issues as he? Is it for a cathartic experience? Is it to make amends with the past? Is it to pull out old skeletons of the closet?
Or simply, is it just to have a good old time and basically leave it at that?
Uh, yeah. I think it may be that one.
And it’s not as if every coming-of-ager has to be some sort of life-altering, moving, and important piece of art, but when you’re making something for the whole world to see, it has to feel a little less self-important than this. Take, for instance, something like Lady Bird, which featured another incredibly charismatic actor (Greta Gerwig, in this case) making their writing and directing debut, but without it ever seeming pretentious or naval-gazing in the least bit; it was a story that Gerwig was clearly born to tell and the one that she helped make relatable to all persons, no matter what gender, or race they may be.
With that, Mid90s doesn’t entirely work. Hill tries to make something out of this deeply-personal tale, but at the end, there’s just something a little hollow about it all and way too many unanswered questions that not even Hill seems to know he just left hanging on the vine. For instance, the most interesting character of the whole bunch is by far Lucas Hedges’ brother, in that we want to know just what the hell is his deal? We know that there’s clearly something going on in that head of his, but why is he like this with his brother? And by that some token, why’s the relationship with the mom so tarnished, too? Hill never really hints at what’s really going on and after awhile, that can get very frustrating, especially when it seems like he knows a little bit better than he’s letting on.
And while it’s easy to say that Mid90s is a lot like other famous actors’ writing/directing debuts, in that it’s got loads of style and ideas, but ultimately a mess, that would be wrong because that’s not correct. It isn’t a mess; it’s guided in the right direction, but it just needed a little something more. That’s all.
Consensus: Though it may have come from a very soft spot in Jonah Hill’s heart, Mid90s never feels like more than just a fun and exciting coming-of-age romp, that’s also a little too loose on the details.
6 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: A24