"Mid90s" has Jonah Hill reliving his youth as writer-director of a skateboard coming of age drama that would fit quite perfectly with this year's other skateboarding flick "Skate Kitchen."
If the latter was a female perspective on adolescence, "Mid90s" is Hill's teenage male version. Focusing on the plight of 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic), tormented by his older brother (a surprisingly threatening performance by Lucas Hedges), and deciding to take a crack at hanging with the cool kids at a skateboarding store, Hill's debut shows real promise for the craft.
Clocking in at just 80 minutes, this debut should have trimmed the film's final twist and will surely be compared to Larry Clark's "Kids," but that would be unfair to the film's pleasures which come through with Hill's camera having a birds-eye-view approach on the surroundings.
Stevie befriends four skateboarders, all ranging between 13 and possibly 18 years of age. The interactions they have are mostly about what boys that age would usually talk about (girls, school, drugs, movies), but the dialogue feels bewilderingly natural. It's impressive to build and carry your film with dialogue that is delivered with such naturalism -- kudos to the actors, who all inhabit their roles with the kind of realism needed to make this kind of movie work.
Hill has said that he spoke to Martin Scorsese about the craft for four hours straight, garnering no doubt valuable advice to make this film. Despite an unsatisfying finale, no doubt pushed by executive producer/Hollywood magnate Scott Rudin, this is a film that proves Hill has got the stuff to last behind the camera. [B]