To put it plainly, growing up can sometimes suck, especially for someone considered a social outcast by his peers. Coming of age always includes the rather difficult journey to find a friend or social group that they feel like they truly belong to.
With his directorial debut “Mid90s,” actor and comedian Jonah Hill shows his perspective of that journey, taking inspiration from his own childhood in 1990s Los Angeles.
Like Greta Gerwig’s 2017 film “Lady Bird,” Hill’s movie conveys his own personal experiences during the middle of that decade through a gripping and unique coming of age story unlike any other in recent memory.
Hill’s story focuses on 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic), as he decides to leave behind his troubled family – consisting of his physically abusive older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) and his mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) – to hang out with a group of delinquent skaters during the day.
Stevie, who gets nicknamed “Sunburn” by the group, finds himself taking part in a series of exciting-yet-dangerous adventures that put both his relationship with his family and his own life on the line. These experiences help Stevie grow closer to the skaters, regardless whether or not they’re a bad influence on him.
From the opening A24 logo all the way to the very last scene, it is clear to see that Hill wanted “Mid90s” to feel as authentic and genuine as possible. Right down to the fact that the film’s aspect ratio and overall grainy texture are made to look like that of a run-down VHS tape, “Mid90s” is meant to not only tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of people who came of age in the 1990s, but to also give the audience an insight into the skateboarding culture of Los Angeles during this rather idiosyncratic decade.
Each of the film’s actors – Suljic and Na-kel Smith (who plays Ray) in particular – give stunning performances, virtually becoming their characters. The relationship between Stevie and Ray serves as not only one of the film’s highlights, but it also reveals the hardships that each member of this group is going through.
Hill ultimately shows the audience that the contrasting differences between these rebellious troublemakers and the “normal” people of Los Angeles, are by no means “black and white,” despite the fact that some people, even to this day, think otherwise.
The film is incredibly layered, making it hard to run out of material to praise. One example of the film’s exceptional consideration to detain is Ian’s constant desire for orange juice and how it's used as symbolism throughout the story.
The soundtrack must also be paid attention to. It consists of songs by artists such as Cypress Hill, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and the Wu-Tang Clan. The works of these iconic 90s artists add much to the overall atmosphere of the film.
The final few minutes practically end the film on an almost perfect note.
In my opinion, the best way to experience “Mid90s” is to go into it with an open mind. It is certainly not a movie for everybody, but for the ones that do decide to stick around until the end, will find it to be arguably one of the best films of the year.