Let’s get something out of the way: Jonah Hill‘s Mid90s (A24, 10.19) doesn’t re-invent or re-invigorate the subgenre known as the L.A. skateboard culture movie (Lords of Dogtown, Wassup Rockers, Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sweet Dreams, Thrashin’). But Hill is more or less recounting his own teenaged saga here, and he’s honored that straight-from-the-pavement aesthetic by dealing no-bullshit cards, at least by the standards that I understand. Plus he knows how to write a story with a beginning, middle and ending. Plus how to shoot and cut and get decent performances out of non-actors and sustain a certain tone or mood or whatever. And so Mid90s holds its own, and that ain’t hay.
I’m in no way dismissing Mid90s by calling it a fully realized, nicely shaded, highly engaging first film. There are maybe a thousand things you can get wrong when you make a movie, and by my sights Hill hasn’t messed up in any discernible way. By the same token he hasn’t levitated his film off the pavement and into the realm of wild-blue-yonder greatness, but whaddaya want from the guy? Does anyone know how hard it is to make even a mediocre film? Hill has made a perfectly good one, and it must have been a bitch to get there. Here’s to the concept of making films about what you’ve been through personally and sticking to what you know. Hill has stepped up to the plate and swung on a fastball and connected…crack!
“When Jonah Was 13 Or So,” posted on 7.24.18: You can tell right off the bat that Jonah Hill‘s Mid ’90s is an exception of one kind or another. It sure doesn’t feel like just another Los Angeles skateboard flick. You can sense a focus on character and kid culture and ’90s minutiae. Fast and loose and raggedy — the rhythms and the atmosphere feel right.
Pic is set in the lower West L.A. region — Palms, Culver City, Venice — and partly focused on a Motor Ave. skateboard shop. (Born in ’83, Hill grew up in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood or just north of these regions.) Sunny Suljic (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) has a certain X-factor thing going, and I love that Hill has Lucas Hedges playing a domineering-shit older brother instead of the usual gentle-sensitive guy from Lady Bird, Boy Erased and Manchester By The Sea. Katherine Waterston plays Suljic’s mildly unstable mom.
Directed and written by Hill; shot by Christopher Blauvelt (Indignation) in HE’s own 1.37 aspect ratio (boxy is beautiful) and edited by Nick Houy.