By Nick Jordan
In one of his earliest roles, Jonah Hill co-starred in the 2006 comedy Accepted where he played an unpopular freshman struggling to fit in at the prestigious college he was at least, academically, accepted to. Twelve years later, Hill finds himself in a new environment where he very well could have not been accepted. Hill, known mostly as a comedic actor with some dramatic turns as well, made his directorial debut with the movie Mid90s. It follows 13-year-old Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic who shares his character’s age, as he begins to branch out from his regular routine of torture courtesy of his older brother, Ian, played by the out-of-character Lucas Hedges, and uncomfortable family dinners between the two of them and their young, single mom, Dabney. All of which occurring in, you guessed it, the mid-1990s.
Instead, as a skateboarding Novus, he finds himself frequenting one of the many skate shops located in Los Angeles. This place was special, however, in that he found what would become his core group of friends. There’s group leader, Ray, who appears to be the most caring and level-headed; Fourth Grade, the quiet friend with a camera who literally and figuratively prefers to stay behind the scenes; Ruben, who appears closest in age to Stevie and becomes visibly jealous of him as he becomes more cemented into the group; and lastly, for censorship’s sake, we’ll refer to the final member as F.S. He is the carefree party animal of the group, a trait that plays a huge role especially later on.
Suljic’s portrayal of the overall innocent, relentlessly optimistic Stevie is reminiscent of Abigail Breslin’s lead performance in 2005’s Little Miss Sunshine as well as Elsie Fisher’s recent turn as Kayla in this past year’s Eighth Grade. While there are elements of self-destruction, both physical and emotional, throughout Stevie’s journey, one can’t help but root for him. In terms of the cast as a whole, there really are no unlikable characters. Any negative trait seen from a character is given a backstory. Even if it’s not explicitly said, every character is fleshed out just based off of how they act and what they say, or don’t say. Stylistically, Hill chose a standard definition look for the film to accentuate the 1990s setting and appearance, with each side of the screen being blocked off in black. This decision, nonetheless, actually gives viewers the full picture. A mostly classic hip-hop-infused soundtrack further the attempted aesthetic.
Its time period, however, is most apparent in its final scene. The group is gathered to watch all of their past hijinks as recorded by Fourth Grade. Unlike today, where our “memories” can be recorded and distributed instantly then deleted after 24 hours, this took time and in return the teenagers took the time to take it all in; no swiping, no need for anyone to tell them “sound on”. I cherished these memories along with them, and with that the entire film. As fitting as the ending was, it did feel quite sudden and far too soon. But if that doesn’t perfectly sum up one’s teenage years, then I don’t know what does.
Nick Jordan is the Opinion Editor for The Comment