A number of talented performers have come from Judd Apatow’s stable of regulars. Who’s the most talented? Paul Rudd sure is charming. Seth Rogan gets around. Does Elizabeth Banks count? James Franco is probably one of the most ambitious.
But I think the most surprising could be Jonah Hill considering he made a name for himself as a foul-mouthed high schooler in Superbad. Since then, he’s gotten an Oscar nod for dramatic work, worked with some top flight directors, and now, with Mid90s, makes his debut as a writer and director in his own right.
And it turns out, he ain’t at all bad at it.
There isn’t much of a plot to Mid90s. It isn’t that sort of movie. Instead, it’s a coming-of-age story for a boy whose probably just starting to hit puberty. Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives with his single mom (Katherine Waterson) and a somewhat abusive older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He’s starting to leave his childhood behind and falls in with a group of skateboarders. These boys are older than he is, and he can’t seem to help but see them as cool. As such, he starts to pick up the sorts of habits that kids his age shouldn’t have, tossing out his childhood stuff in order to get a skateboard and taking advice from the one kid closest to his age on how to behave.
Hill’s movie went with a lesser-known cast outside of Waterson and Hedges. The kids in the movie act like kids, and not exactly model kids. Stevie doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a positive role model in either his family or with the skaters–with one noteworthy exception who, as written and directed by Hill, stands out very obviously–but we do see that people do care about Stevie in both groups. His brother gradually shows concern, as does his mother when she finally picks up enough of Stevie’s behavior to realize what her younger son is actually out doing. As for the skaters, that group is having its own issues as two of the older members are starting to see different routes for each other. Stevie ends up joining a group that may be splitting apart before his eyes.
Hill made something really nice here. The story may not be overly original as it does come across like many other coming-of-age dramas that lack a clear storyline. What he does have here is what may be about a perfect recreation of the unspecified year in the mid 90s the title references to. The fashion, slang, music, style, everything harks back to the year 1995 or so. Likewise, as much as Stevie and his friends act out, the movie does not shy away from the consequences of their actions. It’s not a how-to guide, and the most obvious consequence is hardly the only one. As such, I’m giving this one 8.5 out of 10 creepy Clinton masks.