Northampton Press

Friday, November 16, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOSunny Suljic plays a novice skateboarder in “Mid90s.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTOSunny Suljic plays a novice skateboarder in “Mid90s.”

Movie Review: Skateboarding hits the concrete in ‘Mid90s’

Monday, November 5, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Mid90s” is the theatrical feature film directorial debut of Jonah Hill.

Hill, who turns 35 in December 2018, has had a prolific acting career with some 60 roles, including increasingly serious roles (Oscar nominee, supporting actor, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” 2013; Oscar nominee, suporting actor, “Moneyball,” 2011) after starting out playing raunchy characters in comedies (“Superbad,” 2007).

“Mid90s,” for which Hill also wrote the screenplay, shows the serious side of Hill. “Mid90s” follows the story of a troubled 13-year-old teen, Stevie (Sunny Suljic), living in Los Angeles during the 1990s.

Stevie is pummeled by his older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges) in a poverty-level household of a single mother (Katherine Waterston).

Stevie, a novice skateboarder, becomes friends with skateboarders at a skateboard store in Los Angeles.

Sunny Suljic (“The House With A Clock In Its Walls,” 2018) is remarkable in a low-key performances lit up by a shy smile that appears at moments of nervousness.

Hedges (Oscar, actor nominee, “Manchester By The Sea,” 2016) also turns in an unassuming performance.

Waterston (“Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them,” 2016) plays a shattered female who pulls on her inner reserves on behalf of her son, Stevie.

“Mid90s” is paced by several theatrical movie acting debuts, each idiosyncratic and fascinating, including Ray (Na-kel Smith), Gio Galicia (Ruben) and Olan Prenatt. Also noteworthy is Ryder McLaughlin (“Summer Of 17,” 2017) as the character, Fourth Grade, and Alexa Demie (“Brigsby Bear,” 2017), as Estee.

Hill has gotten remarkable naturalistic performances from the young actors.

Hill has written very believable, if disturbing, profanity-laced (including frequent use of the “N Word”) dialogue for the characters.

Hill seems to be using available light, with scenes often darker than what one would normally expect in a theatrical feature. The sense is that of a home movie. The camera is unobtrusive, and observational, almost as if the movie-goer is eavesdropping on the teens.

Hill filmed with a Super 16mm camera with a 4:3 aspect ratio. I was ready to march to the projection booth to ask why the film’s image didn’t fill the entire screen.

It’s almost as if you’re watching the film that the video-camera-wielding character Fourth Grade shot, which is depicted in the film’s final scenes.

The film’s original music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of the rock band, Nine Inch Nails. The soundtrack includes the songs, “Wave of Mutilation (U.K. Surf)” by the Pixies and “1-800-Suicide” by the Gravediggaz.

“Mid90s” is a slice-of-life film about troubled teens that, if you go see it and stick with it, does have a redemptive quality.

Of the “Mid90s,” as with any difficult decade or time in one’s life, one can confidently conclude, this, too, shall pass.

“Mid90s,” MPAA Rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for pervasive language, sexual content, drug and alcohol use, some violent behavior-disturbing images - all involving minors: Genre: Drama, Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 25 mins.; Distributed by A24.

Unreel, Nov.:

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” PG-13: David Yates directs Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, and Alison Sudol in the Fantasy film. It’s the second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World about the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.

“Instant Family,” PG-13: Sean Anders directs Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, and Gustavo Quiroz in the Comedy. A couple faces challenges after adopting three children.

“Widows,” R: Steve McQueen directs Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki in the Crime Drama. Four women living in Chicago come up with a plan to pay of the debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes