In Theatres: 
Oct 26, 2018
Running Time: 
84 minutes

I grew up in the 90s and while I wasn’t a skater, there were many elements of Mid90s that I connected with. Marking Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, the film is a coming-of-age drama that offers up a window into the life of a kid looking to find his place in the growing world around him, highlighting both the good and the bad of a generation. Mid90s is pure nirvana thanks to Hill’s laser-focused attention to detail, making it a worthwhile trip down memory lane.

13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) has no friends, an abusive older brother (Lucas Hedges) who beats him up constantly, and a single mom (Katherine Waterston) who is doing her best to raise two sons on her own. Left to his own devices, Stevie starts hanging out with a group of older skaters who introduce him to the world of drinking, drugs, sex, and skating. All Stevie is looking for is acceptance, and he’s willing to go to whatever lengths to find that.

Right from the start, it’s very clear that Jonah Hill has a specific vision for Mid90s. The opening scene as Stevie sneaks into his older brother’s room is a nostalgic blast from the past; a collection of CDs, Super Nintendo games, a wall of neatly organized hats and shoes. The grainy texture and 4:3 aspect ratio make it seem like you’re watching a home movie and not some Hollywood production. Sunny Suljic got on my radar thanks to his amazing performance in the video game God of War so it’s great to see more of his talents here. Stevie and his skater friends feel like real people and not just characters. They’re all just kids who are trying to figure things out, and some of them are able to handle life better than others.

No one understands that more than Ray (Na-kel Smith), the leader and best skater among the group who dreams of going pro. He’s best friends with Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), yes that’s his nickname, who is the party animal of the group. Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), might not be the smartest, hence his name, but he has a great eye and thus is always filming. Lastly, there’s Ruben (Gio Galicia), who appeared to be lowest on the totem pole until Stevie arrives.

Mid90s can be an uncomfortable watch. There’s drinking, drugs, plenty of swears, and even a somewhat disturbing sexual scene involving Stevie and an older girl. As creepy as some of these scenes might be, especially given how young Stevie is, they all cater towards the story. These are kids, and kids do stupid things. Jonah Hill could definitely have gone deeper to give more context to some of these situations, but he lays a solid groundwork for a first time effort. Not everything I did when I was that age made sense, and looking back I know I made a lot of dumb mistakes as well. Mid90s adequately puts all that on film, out in the open for everyone to see.

Mid90s does a fantastic job at capturing the atmosphere of growing up in the 1990s. Its story isn’t overly complex, but there are these powerful little intimate moments like when Ray and Fuckshit are talking to a homeless man about life or when Ian shares an orange juice with Stevie and no words are spoken between them that people can relate to. It’s especially true if you were a kid yourself during this time period, but its theme of wanting to belong is timeless. There’s still room for improvement for Jonah Hill as a director, but he’s definitely headed in the right direction, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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