As a child of the 90s, the nostalgic feeling of the trailer for mid90s resonated with me a lot. The A24 produced throwback film is the directorial debut, written by Jonah Hill. The film is a coming-of-age drama with a number of fresh faces. Casting includes actors such as Sunny Suljic (Killing of a Sacred Deer), Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird), Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beast) and skateboarders Na-Kel Smith, Ryder McLaughlin, Olan Prenatt, and Gio Galicia.
Outside of the retro setting and the 90s clothing, the film’s 4:3 aspect ratio was a perfect choice that adds to the nostalgic viewing experience. Watching the film, its aesthetic made me yearn for the days of VHS before everything was HD or 4K and perfectly fitted to the screen. Something so small adds to the film’s authenticity. The soundtrack of the film was composed of 1990s music and the score fits the tone perfectly. Hill uses a lot of close shots and reaction shots to get a wide range of emotions from the characters’ faces.
Warning: Light Spoilers Below
Stevie (Suljic) is an undersized 13 year-old who doesn’t have any friends and is continuously bullied by his older brother Ian (Hedges). His single-mother (Waterston) is always busy with work and rarely gets the time to connect with her sons. Lonely Stevie finds a surrogate family after befriending a crew of skaters. Ray (Smith) is the leader of the crew and uses skateboarding as a way out of the hood. Fuckshit (Prenatt) is a loud-mouthed talented skater and Ray’s best friend. Fourth Grade (McLaughlin) is quiet, awkward and always videotaping his friends as they skate and do tricks. Reuben (Galicia) is the youngest in the crew before Stevie joins. Reuben initiates Stevie, the runt of the litter, by making him do all the tasks like fetch water for everyone else. Later in the film there is a status change between the two after Stevie attempts a trick and the crew nicknames him “Sunburn.” Reuben tries to boss Sunburn around after, but to his chagrin the rest of the crew tells him to stfu, and they all have Sunburn’s back. Also, Reuben is jealous because he has no nickname.
The origin of Fuckshit’s name is simple, when he sees something cool he says “fuck… shit” and like they say the rest is history. Prenatt’s devoted performance is an impactful debut for an actor. There’s a scene between him and a security guard (Jerrod Carmichael) and it’s hilarious. Their back and forth banter felt authentic and genuine. Fuckshit takes Sunburn under his wing and treats him like a little brother. There is even a scene where Fuckshit is about to fight Sunburn’s real brother Ian. Unlike Ray, who wants to leave the hood, Fuckshit is losing focus and making it hard for himself to leave. All Fuckshit wants to do is drink, party and have fun and he stops skating seriously.
Ray is the oldest in the crew and he is a talented skateboarder that could go pro one day. He takes Sunburn under his wing, but he’s a lot more logical and responsible than Fuckshit. Ray tells Sunburn the story of how his little brother died and how Fuckshit had to drag him out of the house to skate. This gives us the depth of his relationship with Fuckshit and how they always have each other back. He lets Sunburn know that Reuben has a messed up life at home. Reuben’s mom is always drinking and beating him and his sister, which is why Reuben is always out skating with the crew. Ray’s quote from the trailer: “A lot of times we think our lives are the worst, but I think if you look into anyone else’s closet you wouldn’t trade your shit for their shit,” is just a little nugget of the wisdom he gives off throughout the film. He even knows that Fourth Grade (McLaughlin) has it rough at home too since his dad is a drunk. Smith’s performance is also his debut on the big screen, and he knocks it out of the park. He comes off as relatable, and he never feels like he’s over-acting. When Sunburn’s mom goes to the skate shop to ban her son from hanging out with the crew, Ray is the only one who addresses her as ma’am and tries to reason with her. When the film has its darkest moments, he’s the first one she acknowledges being there for her son.
One of the smartest things Jonah did when making this film was casting skaters whose personalities would translate well to the screen versus casting actors and teaching them how to skate. All the skaters come off as faithful and honest without feeling Hollywood or overproduced. Even Lucas Hedges did a serviceable job as a malicious bully. There is a cringe-worthy moment that is hard to watch between Estee (Alexa Demie) and Sunburn just because of their age differences. Jonah’s dialogue is full of humor and it gives each character life. When the film has to transition to drama and things get serious there are powerful moments especially towards the end of the film. In only 84 minutes I think the film could’ve been a little bit longer than the climax. Hill does such a superb job building it up, but he could’ve gotten a little more out of the resolution. Overall, the mid-90s, like they say what a time to be alive and mid90s was a live movie worth seeing.
[a si a si]
[All Mames Wey]
mid90s is in theaters everywhere October 26th.