REVIEW: Mid90s

Oh snap! That film was radical, my dude, so jiggy and trippy… was that 90s enough?

Sometime in the mid-1990s, the 13-year-old, Stevie, living with his single mother and abusive brother, joins a group of teenage skateboarders as they proceed to “live-in-the-moment” as youths on the streets of Los Angeles.

The directorial debut of one, Jonah Hill (yes – THAT Jonah Hill), Mid90s was a meditative, nostalgia-filled reflection of coming-of-age that, sure, may have been explored several times over, but never in such a unique fashion. Shot like a 90s music video – something maybe that The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Oasis would make – Mid90s was one of the most inviting films I have seen on the big screen in ages. Seriously, Mid90s was everything I wanted in a film; this may very well be my favourite feature of the year so far and we’re only in April.

Back in 2006, an Australian rock band called Youth Group reworked Alphaville’s 1984 classic ‘Forever Young’ for The O.C.. I don’t know about the wider world, but Youth Group’s version of ‘Forever Young’ became huge down under, especially for the Australian youth. If there’s one thing my generation could best associate now with the “good old days” it would be Youth Group’s ‘Forever Young’ – partly for the song, but also for the music video that accompanied it. The film clip, that showcased a sub-culture in presumably 1980s/ 1990s Australia of skateboarding youths, has (mind the pun) forever had me infatuated with a very selective sleeve of nostalgia. Now whenever I hear the 2006 reworking of ‘Forever Young’ I eternally feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, but also extreme joy, for the youth I once had. Looping this back around to Mid90s, I can safely say the reason I felt this film resonated with me so deeply was because it reminded me exactly of that little old ‘Forever Young’ music video that became popular during my own coming-of-age.

Mid90s just had that air about it that immediately called upon a sense of sentimental memories – a bittersweet session of reminiscing. Rather aesthetically hazy and retro, capturing its time frame so damn perfectly, when I watched Mid90s I didn’t exactly feel like I was watching a film but more a series of home movies capturing moments I never thought could be so intimately filmed.

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(Tobin Yelland/Altitude Films 2019)

Hill’s directing style bound itself with the essence of a Richard Linklater project. Mid90s greatly reminded me of something like Boyhood but also a Dazed and Confused or Bad News Bears, staying true to every ounce of one’s childhood. Never shying away from the darker moments of being a kid but also juxtaposing it with the more awkward and crude waves of one’s teenage years, I was both in stitches watching Mid90s but also appropriately welling up at points. And it was not just Hill’s direction but his writing as well just really captured Hill’s ability to hone his artistic side and his comedic side. Mid90s ultimately utilised its narrative and settings to really propel Hill’s humorous talent to the forefront, making the central teenage conversations feel real and uncomfortably funny. But the conversion of words between the lead child characters also made for some truly touching moments that walked the line of heavily cinematic but also intimate and personal.

And every moment was delivered with such power by the film’s lead, Sunny Suljic, who really proved himself as a formidable up-and-coming performer. Alongside some “dope” co-stars including Na-Kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia and Ryder McLaughlin, the cast of Mid90s worked to really make everything truly feel real – which is a big accolade to a film, retrospectively. I felt as though at points, I was just watching kids from my school playing out their wild weekend for the masses. Nothing felt like a trick to the audience to force false ideas of life and childhood but instead the film offered a more open and welcoming embrace of the everything and everyone we all once knew and affiliated with in our youths.

If I could honestly say anything bad about Mid90s it would be that, maybe, nothing entirely felt new, as if the general “hangout” story ultimately came off as a recycled but ultimately refined idea by Hill. You may not technically get anything overly fresh out of Mid90s… but I don’t think that’s entirely the point of the film. You’re meant to watch Mid90s and feel ample amounts of callbacks and referrals to earlier film that paved the way to this moment. For a project entitled “Mid90s” which furtherly does nothing but pay ultimate respect to its set era, Mid90s felt like more “a celebration” rather than “an event”. The film celebrated culture, youth and film, all in one; executing exactly what an artist attempts to do everyday with their work, and that is, to reflect the truths of their own lives. In Mid90s, Hill had quite obviously opened his heart to the audience, granting exclusive access to his buried childhood memories… something I never thought the Superbad alumni was capable of.

Its become quite the trend now – truly a fact – that every comedian has a dramatic side within them. Usually with legends like Robin Williams, Jim Carey and Steve Carell those dramatic chops are expressed through acting, but with Hill, it would seem the comedian’s heart has this time uniquely found its footing in the director’s chair. A crazy turn into some truly breathtaking cinema, I am honestly flawed by Hill and the ever-surprising evolution of his career. Handling some incredible cinematography, a soothing score and just the visual capacity to tell a story true to the nature of cinema, from the opening credits alone, Hill has revealed himself to be a talent that I don’t think anyone could have expected to shine this bright. Forget Peele, forget Gerwig – honestly, all I want to see now is more from the mind of THE Jonah Hill.

There’s nothing much more I could really say about Mid90s to convince you guys to watch it. I think the film truly is just something you have to reach yourself and engage with yourself – like a kind of spiritual journey. I don’t think my opinion should really sway you too heavily; just go to the cinema, sit down and let the film comfortably take you back to the 1990s. Guys… I’m actually kind of speechless… I loved this film so much… please, please, please, give it a chance… and when you get there, tell them I sent ya.

Mid90s is, in fact… LOST ART

 

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