Funny man Jonah Hill has teamed up with production company A24 for his directorial debut, coming of age drama ‘Mid90s’. The film follows a young teenager, Stevie as he begins to hang around with a group of older boys at a Los Angeles skate shop. Simultaneously he has to navigate his home life where he lives with his single mother, Dabney and his aggressive older brother, Ian. Could this transition from in front of the camera to behind it be a success for Hill or would it prove a cinematic flip trick too far for the renowned actor?
Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt does a tremendous job of capturing the feel of the era, giving the film a visual ascetic that creates the illusion that it’s a production from the decade it’s set in. This authenticity is carried through the rest of the film as well thanks to the natural performances of the cast as a whole. The group of skaters are excellent, with none of them feeling like performers but instead fully embodying the characters they are tasked with playing. The more well known cast members such as Katherine Waterston and Lucas Hedges are also impressively immersive in their ability to become part of this story. Hedges in particular stands out demonstrating some versatility, showcasing his talents in a role strikingly different from what we’re used to seeing from him. From this it’s clear to see that Hill certainly directs his cast with careful instruction. He utilises their talents to create a truly convincing cinematic case study of this era and those who grew up in it.
At a brisk eighty-five minute running time ‘Mid90s’ doesn’t have an excess of narrative, instead it feels more like a glimpse into this world and these moments for its characters. There’s not elaborate character arcs or major narrative plot points running through the film but there’s definite resolutions present. They’re subtle, but this works for the type of film Hill is making. Whilst not all audiences will be able to relate specifically to the 90s L.A. skate scene what is universally relatable is the films ability to showcase the struggles of growing up and trying to find where you belong. It so brilliantly highlights these awful social obstacles that everyone goes through as a kid and shows the best and worst of group dynamics in these troublesome adolescent years. With this in mid ‘Mid90s’ boasts a natural humour to it, as well thanks to its entertaining characters. However, within the flip of an ollie the film shifts into utterly devastating territory exploring the really dark moments that can come with youth, ultimately giving the film a more raw and challenging tone.
Quite possibly not the film many would expect Hill to make ‘Mid90s’ is undoubtedly an impressive debut feature. This slice of life skateboarding flick is like a snapshot of an era that will never be truly experienced by another generation again. Its remarkable authenticity is complemented by a superb cast of mostly unknown performers whose lack of fame serves the film very well. Blending difficult drama and effortless humour ‘Mid90s’ establishes itself as a notable coming of age story and a strong start for Hill’s directorial career.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
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