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Actor Jonah Hill (MONEYBALL) makes his directorial debut in the highly touted Mid90s, a film that centres on rebellious youth. Like all first time directors, tJonah Hill demonstrates in the film’s strengths what he is familiar with – in this case his acting. His young actors perform magnificently capturing the spirit of troubled youth. But there is much lacking in the overall bigger picture. For one, Mid90’s captures a minuscule portion of the life of its subject, 13-year old Stevie (Sunny Suljic last seen in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) but omits the larger story of perhaps examining the advancement in his coming-of-age rites.
The film begins with a skateboarding segment where the camera fluidly follows the smooth gluing movement of the sport. It is a promising start showing expert technical camerawork. The film then settles on Stevie and his friends who hang around a skateboard park with other misfits, some of whom are acquaintances with others they have altercations with.
One of the film’s troubled scenes involve a party where most of the partygoers are between the ages of 18 to 30 where obviously, drug and sex are going on, besides alcohol consumption. Stevie meets an older black girl. They chat before heading upstairs to a room where they make out, Stevie for the first time and her, to satisfy her curiosity. If the gender of these two were reversed, the elder participant would be considered a pedophile, a dirty old man akin to a Harvey Weinstein type sex offender. Also, Stevie is of the young age where he should be sheltered from foul language, such that is frequently uttered with the skateboard buddies. One wonders if his dialogue was dubbed into the film, and if not, that would be trouble for tHill and his filming company.
Credit is to be given to Hill and Suljic however in the creation of this sweet 13-year old character who comes across as vulnerable, goofy and occasionally strong and clever. The other buddies are more cardboard characters despite given interesting names like Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), perhaps for the reason he behaves and thinks like one and Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) called that for other reasons.
The script, probably with a lot of dialogue improvised is street smart talk, fast and furious and often hilarious and occasionally hits the nail on the head with respect to youth observation. One must be fast to catch the lines or one will miss out. Political correctness is thrown out of the window in the film with the N word constantly in use and dialogue like “Don’t say thank you, that’s gay!” One could argue that this is the way words are used on the streets.
Jonah Hill’s Mid90s may be interesting in parts containing impressive performances from its young cast but the film is too short sighted. Despite being authentic and entertaining, Mid90s is nowhere remotely close to Truffaut’s 400 BLOWS. The film has garnered rave reviews and one can see that is a street-smart down-to-earth crowd pleaser, despite its flaws.