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Mid90s – Movie Review

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Mid90s – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

A film titled Mid90s runs the risk of just being a big nostalgic ode to a previous decade. There is a little bit of that early on when we catch glimpses of a Super Nintendo and Ninja Turtles bed sheets. Jonah Hill, making his feature directing debut, eventually leaves that aside to instead focus on a thirteen year old boy trying to take part in the skateboarding culture of the time. The best aspect of Mid90s is how Hill genuinely cares about his characters. Watching Stevie becoming a part of this group of friends is sweet to see, because there is an actual connection there. His home life is also explored with both the happiness and difficulties he has to deal with.

Most of Stevie’s screentime is spent getting to know these skateboarding teenagers. While certainly immature with their fair share of absurd conversations, Hill portrays them as good people who are mostly content to skateboard at the local park. The sort of dialogue they have is exactly what those sorts of teens would partake in and each of them are given individual personality traits to tell them apart. They could have easily been written as annoyed by Stevie or taking advantage of him, but there’s a bond there that feels genuine. The young actors hired to play the skateboarders add to the believability of this friendship.

Stevie’s home life also makes it understandable why he would gravitate towards the skateboarders. The only unlikeable character in Mid90s is his older brother Ian. Lucas Hedges’s performance portrays someone with a lot of anger and he is able to portray a truly despicable older sibling. Hedges also does well in showing how much this anger comes from wanting to be a tough guy, but who is actually a wimp underneath. On the other side is Stevie’s mother, played wonderfully by Katherine Waterston. This is a mother trying her best to raise these two young boys and she’s an immediately sympathetic character in the story.

A lot of Mid90s depends on Sunny Suljic’s performance as Stevie. He successfully carries the film and shows the changes Stevie goes through when he hangs out with his new friends. Jonah Hill gives him plenty of scenes to shine, including a number of them where he is by himself. Hill doesn’t opt for showiness in his direction, instead letting the characters guide us through the story. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score also enhances the film, rather than be distracting. Despite the title and setting, they opt for traditional orchestral pieces that fit the scenes. Their score does more to pull us into the time period than any obvious 1990s song would have.

Mid90s serves less as a nostalgic remembrance to an earlier era, like the title may suggest. There is actually a timelessness to the story and what this young boy seeks to do. Most importantly, it doesn’t have a cynical bone in its bone and instead prefers to highlight how good people can come from any place. The characters are fleshed out enough that even if they’re merely conversing and talking randomly about a certain subject, they’re interesting discussions that allow us into their somewhat immature minds. It’s a promising debut for Jonah Hill and he has immediately proven himself as a filmmaker with good stories to tell.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison