07th Nov2018

‘Mid90s’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie, Fig Camila Abner, Liana Perlich, Ama Elsesser, Judah Estrella Borunda, Mecca Allen | Written and Directed by Jonah Hill


In 1990s Los Angeles, 13-year-old Stevie escapes his turbulent home life by hanging out with a new group of friends he meets at a local skate shop, plunging him into a world of fun, danger and excitement.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s is an artistic and entertaining romp. Perfectly stylised and thematically engaging as the personification of the decade in which it is set, with magnetic aptitude. The issues lie within the content provided which is the epitome of shallow and hollow, aside from the energy provided in a majestic score and absurdly beautiful framing in the cinematography from Christopher Blauvelt.

The exploration of teenage rebellion, while not necessarily fresh nor unique, serves up a competent and intriguing tale via the writing from Hill who also not only directed but wrote this feature. The comedic charisma and charm are clearly on show in Hill’s writing, it flows incredibly well with natural instinct, with humour that never feels out of place nor heavy-handed. It’s the small moments driven through character that holds the most weight.

Considering the extremely short running time with just over seventy minutes long, Hill most undoubtedly should be saluted for creating such an inviting and engaging picture. It goes hand in hand with the film naturalistic and raw performances. Two, in particular, are rather spectacular, in both Na-Kel Smith who plays Ray and Sunny Suljic who plays the films lead Stevie. The two performers are terrific throughout the film, with powerful emotional weight from each, both characters share a scene regarding a character’s past and it holds an astonishing amount of raw emotional weight and poignancy. It is the elegant maturity that holds the film together. Exploring social issues and racial themes with piquancy and fortitude.

Mid90s does, however, feel somewhat empty in a story that essentially feels like an elongated bloated short film for hipsters on Vimeo. Not necessarily the majestic prowess of a cinematic release, not because of its 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which in fact makes the feature that more impactful and poetic, but because the context and film itself just can’t justify the means. The themes and character are here, yet the film has to stretch itself in terms of content, primarily due to Hill’s inexperience of producing feature-length productions.

The climax of the film is easily the best example of a director who unfortunately has strived for style over the form of substance and the effect leaves a rather bitter and underwhelming finale.

Mid90s is in cinemas across the US now.


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