For those who grew up in the 90’s, Mid90s is Jonah Hill’s gift to you, tied tightly with a sepia bow of nostalgia. Cruising streets of Los Angeles, the film begs you to fall among a brotherhood of young skateboarders, living with four wheels under their feet and not a care in the world.
In the film, Stevie (Sunny Suljic) seeks to escape his home life, troubled by abusive older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges) and their single mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston). Setting out on his bike, he rides without a destination, when he discovers a group of skaters hanging around outside a skate shop. Stevie admires their lifestyle, and after trading video games to his brother for an old skateboard, he’s ready to befriend Ruben (Gio Galicia), a member of the group. Nicknamed ‘Sunburn’ by his new peers, Stevie joins the rag-tag team.
From the beginning, it’s apparent that Stevie’s father is not a part of his or his brother’s life. This absence stitches itself into the film from the moment Stevie meets his new friends and weaves in and out until the ending scene. With no father and a neglectful, abusive older brother, Stevie turns to the skaters to learn his masculine qualities. Jonah Hill keeps this influence well-balanced, as it in turn works for and against the young protagonist. Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) a partying, semi-good skater introduces Stevie to drugs and alcohol while Ray (Na-kel Smith), the leader and most highly-skilled skater of the group, teaches Stevie that simple things like
manners are cool. With skateboarding a mechanism of connection in this story, the movie spotlights more the relationships between characters rather than skating.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, music producers for the film, immerse the audience in the previous century using authentic mid-90s hip-hop and alternative rock. Language also plays a key role in snapping the viewer back in time. While there’s an unfortunate use of obscene homophobic slurs like “faggot” and other derogatory terms, sadly, that was the ’90s. According to an interview in Slate, Hill says that it felt more important to tell the truth than go back and change history.
“I think people who grew up in that time period are having to unlearn a lot of messed up lessons that were learned back then. We’re talking about language that is ugly, behavior that is ugly.”
Mid90s is filmed using a camera filter that gives the movie a gritty, grainy aesthetic, and off the coattails of the music and language in the film, it genuinely feels like a by-product of the 90s’. For a film that has considerably low box office numbers (roughly four million as of October 31), Jonah Hill has created an endearing coming-of-age indie film that captures the mood of many of our childhoods.