By Andrew Breazeale, Contributor
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is off to a strong start with Mid90s, a tale of a young impressionable boy growing up in LA surrounded by his violent brother and absent mother. Our protagonist, Stevie, begins to explore his adolescence and individuality when he meets a group of skaters and becomes enamored with the idea of freedom that comes in the form of a piece of wood and four wheels. We follow Stevie’s journey into young adulthood as he adventures into the world of drugs, alcohol, sex and skating under the influence of his new friends.
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No matter the audience, Mid90s comes across as nostalgic and sentimental. Hill takes us back to a time where going outside and being active was the most fun we could have. Through the eyes of Stevie and his skater friends, Fuckshit, Fourth Grade, Ruben and Ray, we are transported to a period of time that, like the name of the movie suggests, is ambiguous. Mid90s easily avoids the trap that many other movies set in older time periods fall for, focusing too much on the setting and popular trends of the time. The vagueness of the setting allows the audience to focus directly on the development of the characters, the part of the movie that commands the most respect.
Stevie’s friends are introduced to us as empty shells, just delinquent kids who rebel against “the man” with skating. But as the movie progresses, the characters are filled in with stories of loss, ambition and pain, revealing how skating allows them to express themselves and experience freedom. The actors who play the group of skaters, all of them unknown, are incredibly natural, effortlessly giving a sense of realness and authenticity to the time period. This talent, in combination with the movie’s 4:3 aspect ratio and 16mm film graininess, gives the audience the impression of being in the ‘90s, watching this all unfold as if part of the group.
Uncomfortable and overpowering at times, Hill truly portrays the spirit of freedom and rebellion that all adolescents face in their lives, using his own upbringing in LA as a reference. A coming-of-age film riddled with teen angst, Hill’s personal touch and an iconic soundtrack, this movie is sure to be a hit and, with this hit under his belt, there’s no telling what he’ll do next.
Watch the trailer here: