Mid90s Blu-ray Review

It’s slightly depressing to think of the nineties as a nostalgic period for cinematic exploration.

There was a time when the nineties used to be simply known as The Present Day.

There even was a time when the eighties was too recent a decade to qualify as a cultural setting.

But with everything from The Wedding Singer to Wonder Woman 1984, the eighties is fair game and with the recent success of Captain Marvel, it looks like the same can now be said for the nineties.

Curious then that Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s is about so much more than the middle of the titular decade.

For a start, the film does not desperately stuff every scene with nineties references.

Sure, there are period clothes and gadgets which at first feel a little on the nose, until the story sinks in and the world becomes more immersive and feels less staged.

Young teen Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives in LA with his mum (Katherine Waterson) and older brother (Lucas Hedges). Subject to seemingly regular beatings at the hands of the latter, Stevie seeks refuge away from home and stumbles upon a group of amiable, slightly older skateboarders: Ray, Fourth Grade, Ruben and Fuckshit.

Yep. Fuckshit.

Stevie is slowly welcomed into the group and discovers a world of sex, smoking, drinking and skateboarding.

Lots of skateboarding.

The group dynamics however begin to gradually change around, and potentially because of, young Stevie.

Mid90’s is understandably compared to Larry Clark’s notorious Kids, released in the actual mid ‘90s, and indeed features a cameo from that film’s screenwriter, Harmony Korine. Hill’s film is a sweeter affair but no less noteworthy.

The known names here are Hedges and Waterson, who are both predictably solid, but it is through his relatively unknown cast that Hill generates the strongest performances and most moving moments.

Suljic is particularly a joy to watch, his initial nerves and later joy believably bubbling to the surface at the right moments.

The opening scene, where Suljic stalks through his brother’s vacant room, his face a mixture of fascination and fear, reminds me so vividly of my own childhood, sneaking into my older brother’s room for a glimpse of a more grown up and infinitely cooler world.

At a lean eighty five minutes, Hill does not leave an ounce of fat on Mid90s; it manages to pause and reflect on the relevant moments while briskly bustling on towards an ending that admittedly feels a little unsatisfying and unresolved. Fortunate then that the rest of the film is so good.

A top comic talent in his own right, Hill shows a great power for observation and unflinching storytelling here, and manages to sidestep the gratuitousness which other directors might have brought.

Conor Brennan

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August 2019