Jonah Hill’s ‘mid90s’ Is An Okay Movie Trapped In A Prison Of Forced Nostalgia (FILM REVIEW)


mid90s, the directorial debut from actor Jonah Hill, opens with a fight between two brothers. Well, to call it a “fight” wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as it’s mostly the older sibling, Ian (Lucas Hedges), wailing mercilessly on his much younger brother, Stevie (Sunny Suljic). It’s a visceral, shocking, and all-too familiar scene to anyone who grew up with older siblings.

Unfortunately, mid90s isn’t able to keep that same level of visceral honesty, trading it all too often for what can only be described as mid-90s product placement.

In fact, the entire first act of the film feels like an aggressive over-reminder of the film’s setting. Which is the mid-90s. I mean… it’s right there in the title. And yet, despite this glaringly obvious fact, the first 30 minutes is a non-stop barrage of the era’s most recognizable #brands.

Remember Ren & Stimpy? Super Soakers? Nirvana? Beavis & Butthead? Cassette tapes? They’re all right here, front and center to constantly remind you that mid90s does, in fact, take place in the mid-90s. Even Ian wears a Bill Clinton mask in one scene, which serves absolutely no purpose besides as yet another reminder of that fondly-remembered Hypercolor’d decade.

Once Hill gets all the nostalgia porn out of the way, mid90s gives itself room to breath and tell its story. Interesting side-note: after this film’s North American premiere at this years Fantastic Fest, Hill said that his number one rule when making this was ‘no nostalgia porn,’ which it seems he did not adhere to.

As far as the story itself, it’s perfectly. Stevie meets some older cool kids who smoke cigarettes and skateboard, and he slowly works his way up from literal water boy to ‘one of the gang.’ His mom doesn’t like it, they fight about it, he goes back to hanging out with them.

It’s clear that Hill has a real passion behind wanting to tell this story, influenced strongly from his own awkward childhood. That doesn’t necessarily translate to it being anything beyond another coming-of-age story with an affable lead character and all the assorted hijinks that convey the cinematic equivalent of “growing up.”

While Hill handles the everyday incidentals well, even casting “real” kids instead of child actors to portray Stevie and his group of friends, he ends up forcing a big, dramatic event near the end. It not only feels completely unnecessary, but its handled with a very peculiar lack of consequences, further undermining the creative choice.

Ultimately, mid90s is a serviceable entry into the ever-overflowing genre of “just kids growing up films.” Sure, it may be unique and personal to Hill’s experiences, but films like Eighth Grade and Skate Kitchen have managed to carve out comparably more interesting stories within the same medium.

mid90s is in theaters now

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