“American Youth,” a review of “Mid90’s” by Nathan H. Box
Recommendation: 3/5 Stars, STREAM
Director: Jonah Hill, Writer: Jonah Hill, Starring: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges
Plot: “Mid90’s” follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 1990s-era Los Angeles who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.” -IMDB
Review: Like lots of movie-goers, I have been fascinated by the rise of Jonah Hill. From comedic actor to drama, and now in the writer/director role, his evolution has been a fun one to watch. For his debut film, he chose to bring our attention to a sibling rivalry that morphs into a search to belong to something/anything. In many ways, this a relatable tale for most American youth; particularly those lost to the 1990’s.
We all have a need to belong. We want to fit in and find ourselves surrounded by people who see the world as we do. Some people search their whole lives for this type of community. Others are lucky enough to find it in their youth. Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, is a thirteen-year-old boy growing up in Los Angeles looking for people he can call his own. Like lots of kids growing up in Southern California in the 90’s, he found that community among those who skate. Where others see problem children, mischief, rulebreakers, and disaffected American youth, Sunny sees family. There are older kids to admire and emulate, rivals, and guidance; all of the dynamics of a normal family but found in those who float on top of wood with reckless abandon.
Of course, kids are kids and one of Stevie’s great challenges in this movie is losing himself. Peer pressure and trying to be impressive puts him in a lot of dicey and compromising positions. There are moments in this movie where you fear for his safety and watch him grow up way too fast. For some, skating is a positive outlet. For others, it is an excuse to party and hook-up. Throughout this movie, Stevie has to confront what he wants from this world. The decision becomes extremely evident thanks to a wonderfully placed and unexpected turn near the end of the film.
Stevie’s home life isn’t great. His older brother has deep-seated issues and tends to take his problems out on his younger brother in a very violent fashion. His mother is absent a lot and can’t account for his whereabouts most of the time. Stevie takes a lot of hits in this film; both at home and while skating. One of the older boys reminds him of this truth. Laying in a hospital bed at the end of the film, we hope Stevie has learned his lesson. As we sit and wait for a full arch of character growth, the film ends with a skating montage video. This is disappointing. “Mid90’s” possesses the ability to be a really great movie. It doesn’t allow the audience to experience a full character arch. Instead, we feel like drones watching a story for a little while and then we fly away to something else never getting a complete picture. For this choice, I recommend you stream this one.
Be good to each other,
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