Mid90s

In DVD/Blu-ray by Alex Moss Editor

Mid90s is labelled as a comedy from Jonah Hill. So you know what you’re going to get, right? Dick-jokes delivered by freaks and geeks, right? Wrong. It’s easy to sell Mid90s off the back of Hill’s success as an actor but as a filmmaker, he’s flexing artistic muscles in an unexpected and highly rewarding manner.

Set in the titular decade we follow Stevie (Sunny Suljic), an isolated teen desperate to feel part of something. That something comes in the form of a local group of skate kids. Led by charismatic Ray (Na-kel Smith) and fun-loving Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) the gang soon take Stevie under their wing, allowing him to live a teenage life of skating, boozing, sex, drugs and adolensence.

Mid90s is a slice of nostalgic brilliance. It is about as far removed from the film you associate Jonah Hill the actor with. It’s keenly observed, the early scenes dripping, head to toe, in references that immediately route you in a moment of your past, if you were alive at the time that is. It is a period, coming-of-age drama the kind of which Richard Linklater has been so successful making with films such as Dazed & Confused, Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some. Mentioning Hill in that sort of company might seem hyperbolic, but Mid90s is the kind of film that would make a fantastic double-feature with any of those films.

Hill’s style is delicate, fly-on-the-wall simple. Imagine if Steven Soderbergh made a teen drama and you’re somewhere to what Hill achieves. His writing is nuanced and smart. At times it feels mumblecore but in a more detailed and targeted manner. Each and every character on display feels so incredibly rounded-out. You sense Hill has a backstory for each and everyone of them jotted down on a legal pad somewhere, and while these are only hinted at from time to time you are utterly submerged in their world. So much so Hill smartly allows you to fill in much of their backstory yourself by simply alluding to it on screen.

This is in no small part to a wonderfully fresh and perfectly cast group of young actors. Suljic is a perfect Hill avatar, all shy, reclusive and put-upon but once out of his shell, brave and funny. The real star of Mid90s is Na-kel Smith. As Ray he is magnetic, heartfelt and just damaged enough to make you want to delve deeper into who he is. It’s the kind of performance that should turn Smith into a genuine star.

A grungy slice of nostalgia, Mid90s is a teenage drama that perfectly captures the bumps and scrapes of finding your place in the world.