'Mid90s' - Skating is cool again [REVIEW]

Mid90s

As if it ever wasn't to begin with.

There’s more to skateboarding than riding a wooden board without falling off. There’s more to skateboarding than doing landing a bunch of cool tricks or backflips in front of a crowd. The heart of the sport, really, is about community, as depicted in A24’s new film Mid90s.

From director Jonah Hill — yes, that Jonah Hill, and we’re as surprised as you are — Mid90s is a coming-of-age comedy/drama about skateboard culture in Los Angeles during the 1990’s.

Stevie (Sunny Suljic) has never had a lot of friends.

He doesn’t really mind, though, as living in LA with his mother (Katherine Waterston) and brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges), has been a hard enough challenge to navigate without having to worry about friends on top of that.

Mid90s
credit: YouTube

His mother might be a fine single-parent, even though she’s at work most of the time and seems to be running from a life she’s tried to live behind, but Ian? Ian makes life a literal living hell.

It’s when Stevie is walking around on the streets one afternoon when he encounters Ray (Na-Kel Smith), F*cksh*t (Olan Prenatt), Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) and Ruben (Gio Galicia) for the first time.

He watches, from a distance, as they skate around a couple store owners, making jokes at their expense while they flirt with a crowd of nearby girls and do a bunch of kick-flips off their board.

That’s all Stevie needs to see to be sold on the idea of becoming a skater. He proceeds to trade Ian all of his records of an old, outdated skateboard with a bunch of goofy designs on the back of it, just so he can begin to learn the basics of how to ride.

Mid90s
credit: YouTube

Lucky for Stevie, it doesn’t take long for the skaters to accept him in, even if his riding skills may not be completely up to par.

Once accepted, Stevie has, for the first time in his entire life, a group of friends to hang out with. Friends who, at times, might encourage him to make some stupid decisions — like drinking, doing drugs (keep in mind he’s only, like, twelve here), breaking the law and being flat-out reckless at times — but, at their heart, actually care about him.

Stevie’s mother doesn’t necessarily see it that way. She only sees the group’s problematic side and wants to put a stop to this. Ian, on the other hand, doesn’t really care either way. He’s just going to beat the living sh*t out of Stevie whether he has friends or not.

I haven’t heard Jonah Hill speak out about Mid90s since the movie was released, meaning I can’t verify whether or not this is actually true at this time, but I have to imagine that he used to be something of a skater himself back in the 1990s.

Mid90s
credit: YouTube

I say that because the way Mid90s presents these characters, the world they inhabit and this lifestyle feels like a slice of life that could only be captured this realistically if someone had actually lived in it themselves.

There are some smaller details and technical attributes that contribute to this, for sure. The Street Fighter II t-shirts or '90s rap soundtrack all take us back to this time period, as does the 4:3 aspect ratio that the whole movie is shot in, making us feel like we’re watching long-lost home videos.

There’s more to it than just that, though. Anyone can make a movie look like it takes place in a certain time period, but it takes greater skill to make us really feel like we’re living in it ourselves.

Hill manages to do that by really digging deep into the characters, what drives them and the double-edged sword that skater culture can create.

Mid90s
credit: YouTube

Stevie is obviously our lead, but, lucky enough, he’s not just a bland, lifeless character the audience is supposed to project themselves into. He’s given his own story, his own emotions and his own short-comings which cast his new group of friends in various shades of grey rather than just black/white.

On the one hand, skateboard cutler gives Stevie’s life purpose and allows him to escape from the miserable situation he previously found himself in. With this new group of friends — friends that actually care about him — he’s able to mature and, ready for it, come of age in ways he previously hadn’t. On the other hand, the way he grows up isn’t necessarily the healthiest one, as some of the things he does and says throughout Mid90s are downright awful.

It creates a complicated complex that, again, feels like real life. I feel like most directors wouldn’t even think to paint this issue in this way and would rather just paint it as fully good or fully evil, but Hill is so tapped into the story he’s able to take it to a deeper level.

Mid90s
credit: YouTube

The supporting cast here, too, adds a lot to Mid90s. Ryder McLaughlin and Gio Galicia are both good in the movie, even if neither of them has a ton of lines (they both make the most of what they do get), but it’s Olan Prenatt and especially Na-Kel Smith who are the real standouts here. Don’t be surprised when you start to see both of them show up in other movies after Mid90s.

While the ending might be a little shaky — mostly because of where it chooses to cut off, as it feels like we still have some unfinished business to attend to — Mid90s was a real unexpected treat. I mean, I had heard that the movie was good and getting all these rave reviews coming out of TIFF, but I still had my reservations. This is Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, after all, and it’s quite a departure from anything we’ve seen him star in.

Turns out, Mid90s delivers on all the hype and then some. With a short runtime of 84 minutes, I’m finding myself wanting to watch this movie over and over again.

Watch the trailer for Mid90s here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!

'Mid90s' - Skating is cool again [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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