“Cause one day I wanna make movies. I have this one idea. It’s about this baby. Like a… like a… like a super baby. It’s called Strong Baby”Review by Lewis Goodall
Mid 90’s is a coming of age tale written and directed by Jonah Hill, that explores the life of Stevie (Sunny Suljic), a 13 year old who live in prime time 90’s where ninja turtle bed sheets were a must have. Stevie finds a way to escape his troubled home life when he stumbles upon a group of skaters around his age outside the local skate shop. Tapping into this fascination with skating, Stevie befriends his way into this diverse group who teach him what it’s like to really make your way through the streets and what it truly means to skate.
If you didn’t grow up in the 90’s then I feel sorry for you, even though to be fair my peak age in the 90’s was 4 but nonetheless I still wish to call myself a 90’s kid instead of a millennial. This film just drools 90’s all over you, from the music choices, down to the posters on the walls. 90’s to the point where (incoming fact) the projectionist who screened the film thought it was awesome that they managed to find an unreleased 90’s film and they are only just releasing it. They do an amazing job with this film to make it feel real, a lot of the time it feels more like I’m just watching home tapes of this group of friends, like national geographic but with skaters. This documentary feel to it is brought on by the 4:3 ratio and slightly grainey filter to give it that authentic 90’s feel which is a major credit to the direction. If it wasn’t for the ratio I don’t think that this film would’ve had as much as an impact as it does, which is strange but goes to prove that everything counts when creating a story to which Jonah Hill has done an incredible job.
This is Jonah Hill’s debut film and it oozes pure memories and you can tell that this film comes straight from his heart. Having a background of skating, its obvious that it resonates through this film where skating is obviously a big part of the film but it’s more about the connection between these friends and the skating that brings them all together. So as mentioned Stevie comes from a broken home where he lives with his single mother (Katherine Waterson) and his abusive older brother (Lucas Hedges). Looking for that escape from his brother beating his 13 year old tooshie, stevie comes across the group of skaters. In the group we have Ruben, the one who thinks he’s cool (Gio Galicia), Forth Grade, a nickname given to him because he has the mind of a forth grade (Ryder McLaughlin). We also have FuckShit, the best nickname known to man (Olan Prenatt) and lastly was have Ray, the older brother Stevie needs (Na-kel Smith). This group of guys nurture Stevie into their way of living by taking him to all the illegal skating spots and to parties. All these characters feel so real, purely down to the dialogue which feels more like it was all improved because of how natural it feels, down to insulting eachother and asking eachother the real questions like “do black people get sun burnt?”. As you see all their bonds becoming tighter, you can see the influence of these new friends rubbing off on Stevie where some bad decisions are made but ultimately you can see stevie start coming out of the shell that was built around him from the fear his brother has put on him. Seeing stevie become his own man is pretty seamless and Sunny does a great job of portraying this once feeble kid. Also I definitely recognised him from somewhere and Sunny voiced the Atreus in the new God of War game and that alone is fucking awesome. All of the friends do their parts well apart from maybe a couple of moments where the acting felt a bit flat but ultimately everyone does this film justice.
There were a few moments within the plot I felt were a bit cliche. It certainly followed the template to a coming of age film. I read that Jonah was Inspired by Shane Meadows ‘This is England’ which is very apparent within Mid 90’s. Just a few moments where I had to keep reminding myself that Stevie was 13 and not 8 which he looks (Suppose brief spoiler here so I’ll do a bunch of ‘*’ signs when it’s no longer spoiler territory). There is a moment in the story to which stevie is taken to his first house party and experiences his first sexual encounter. It was done incredibly in terms of all aspects, acting, the way it is shot, but the height difference between the two made it feel a bit uncomfortable, Stevie looks about 8 whereas who he is with looks about 16 which is very similar to ‘This is England’ when I think about it. This moment just felt a bit odd but the erection I got felt even weirder.
You’re safe now, no more spoilers. Something I mentioned in that spoiler section is just that it was shot very nicely, this goes for the whole experience of this film and you can tell that every shot was thought about which is what’s fantastic about directors debuts in general, you can always tell more thought a heart goes behind it.
Overall I feel even though this film does follow the beat of a typical coming of age film, I’d probably go as far as to say that this is my favourite coming of age film. Just everything is done so well and getting fisted with the big hand of nostalgia felt amazing. One of the problems I have with the film which isnt really a problem but it was a short film. The film runs are 1 hour and 25 minutes and I would’ve loved to of seen more. I got so invested with the story of these friends that I could’ve happily of kept watching for another hour. Swings and roundabouts though because as this is a short film its something I could recommend to anyone as it’s not much of an investment to a day. Short and sweet, just like the director.