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Review: 'mid90s' is an intimate look at adolescence

Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 4:30 PM Central
Last updated Friday, January 11, 2019 at 8:42 AM Central

by John Couture

There was a period in my life when I was all about the skate culture. I was what you would call a poseur because I couldn't skateboard to save my life. There was a brief time when this culture permeated the youth scene and helped to shape the lives of those who happened to come of age between like 1988 and 1998.

Jonah Hill was born in 1983, so much like the protagonist in mid90s, he was 13 during the mid-1990s. Whether Jonah Hill was ever fully immersed in this culture at this time (he did grow up in L.A.) or if he simply observed it from the outside, he artfully creates a love letter to this truly unique American experience in his directorial debut.

mid90s follows Stevie as he comes of age in L.A. in the mid-1990s and finds his identity and friends through the local skate culture. With turbulent times brewing at home, Stevie increasing turns to his new friends to help him navigate this precarious moment in life.

The film that first came to mind as I was watching mid90s was the equally raw coming-of-age film Kids. Larry Clark's cautionary tale of youth and vibrancy in the shadow of New York's AIDS epidemic seems like an ideological bookend to Jonah Hill's film about skateboarding in L.A. They both feature real and unsuspecting performances that succeed in capturing the moment in time they depict.

The greatest compliment that I can give to Jonah Hill the filmmaker is that mid90s feels less like a modern-day scripted narrative as much as found footage from a more innocent time period. The look and feel of the film succeed in capturing a slice of life from the mid90s more than anything.

While the film naturally holds onto this lost moment in time, you can't help but wonder what happened to Stevie in the intervening 25 years? Did he grow up and lose his cultural touchstone of the skate culture? Or did he continue to act out in deference to his upbringing? Is he rotting away in jail, or living the life as a commodities broker?

Naturally, this isn't the point nor the scope of the film, but rather these type of thoughts are indicative of just how effective mid90s is as a film. It challenges you to think back on your own experiences and draw out the conclusions for the characters. Any film that makes you wonder about the "after credits" life of its characters is a worthy endeavor for sure.

mid90s is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.