2007’s Superbad proved to be a launching pad for a number of performers, namely Michael Cera, Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. While the stars of an earlier, comparable teen comedy (1999’s American Pie) also had a film catapult them into the public’s consciousness, many of them faltered in the following years. For further evidence of this, look no further than Tara Reid’s most recent screen credit, The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Jonah Hill could have spent the rest of his days playing the full-figured funny friend, and while an actor moving behind the camera isn’t usually an epiphany, his debut feature as a director is an unexpected gift.
Sunny Suljic is Stevie, a 13-year-old living with his mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) and older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) in Los Angeles (in the mid 90s, shockingly enough). Stevie joins a gang of skateboarders and quickly ingratiates himself with these slightly older teens. The decade is presented with liberal dollops of nostalgia, since who doesn’t remember emerging from under their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blankets to wander through their house wearing their Street Fighter 2 shirt, whilst listening to their Discman? Though it has a hearty and measured sense of nostalgia, the film doesn’t get bogged down in sentimentality, and these 90s touchstones are largely discarded as Stevie begins his transition to a little gangster.
Hill has directed his first film with a shrewd finesse, and although the result isn’t anything overly original, there’s a warm sincerity to Mid90s. Suljic’s Stevie is such an agreeable, non-earnest character, even when he’s screaming expletives at his mother. The casual, affectionate vulgarity of teenagers is wonderfully captured (and is arguably timeless). One of the characters has even been lovingly nicknamed Fuckshit. The movie culminates in a moment of heightened drama, which is unnecessary, and provides a convenient lesson in morality for the film’s characters. This development perhaps stems from Hill’s inexperience as a filmmaker, and a more confident writer/director might have been inclined to allow the story to conclude in a less contained manner. But this is just a minor misstep in a delightful film.
Mid90s is released nationwide on 12th April 2019.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Mid90s here: