Jonah Hill’s ‘Mid90s’ is an ode to young skaters
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut “Mid90s” will be released Friday.
The film, comprised of snippet slice-of-life style videography, tackles a coming of age story that is often glorified for all the wrong reasons. Starring in the movie is skateboarder and child actor Sunny Suljic, a first-timer when it comes to playing the lead in a major motion picture.
Some expected “Mid90s” to be a predictable and unoriginal reiteration of “Kids” (1995) or “Lords of Dogtown” (2005). Contrary to these beliefs, the film surmounts the niche stereotype with a pure take on what it means to grow up for many kids, like Suljic’s character Stevie.
Had the film taken on the story with the purpose of keeping the general audience happy, by the end of it Stevie would have been a skateboard prodigy with hopes of even going pro. Hill makes it clear, however, that “Mid90s” is not a coming-of age story to satisfy everyone.
Stevie somehow finds a semblance of familiarity at a skate shop with a group of kids that seamlessly wreak havoc in the smallest of ways. Stevie’s life doesn’t change drastically, and the farthest he gets with skateboarding is a kind-of successful attempt at a Chinese nollie.
Things even get worse by the end of it, and yet this lackluster development is a statement all on its own. Hill is able to successfully maintain the reality of many kids and their beginnings with a skateboard and even their attempts at making friends.
Played by Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Na-kel Smith and Ryder McLaughlin, these characters are what make up the gang of four that Suljic finds his place in. Stevie’s timid disposition throughout the film and the supporting characters’ rowdy, obnoxious dialogue create a natural pairing in which Stevie acts as a spectator among kids he enjoys being around.
Stevie’s problems don’t change, however, and his life doesn’t progress linearly in any direction. That’s just not the way it works for anyone. Suljic’s performance as Stevie embodies Hill’s unwavering respect toward reality, a pairing unmatched.
Although “Mid90s” left room for development, like Stevie’s relationship with his brother or even the growth of Galicia’s character Ruben’s relationship within the group of friends, Hill is able to capture an overarching take on friendship among the boys.
Whether Hill meant to or not, the silence amidst the frustration is the most genuine performance of all. The characters are quiet or distracted when it comes to the moments that matter and hardly articulate what they really mean to say.
This isn’t too far off from reality for many kids their age.
With few pure moments of vulnerability amidst chaos and aimlessness, Hill brings together the story of a kid’s Bildungsroman, without the harsh character study. Accompanied by a timeless soundtrack that reflects an authentic union of hip-hop and skate culture, “Mid90s” is a film that many can find a bit of themselves in.
Although the downward spiral “Mid90s” takes us in isn’t one that’s very common, this is Hill’s attempt at telling a story that never ends. And truly, it never does.
Jonah Hill’s “Mid90s” is ultimately an ode to every kid out there who started off on faulty footing and is still somehow managing to overcome it, or every kid out there who walked into a skate shop for the first time not knowing what they were going to find but running with it anyway.
“Mid90s” is not everyone’s coming of age story, but it is one worth telling.
Check out the trailer here.