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Jonah Hill’s debut film pays homage to the 90s with a coming-of-age story

Sophia Scorziello, Arts Editor

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Jonah Hill’s directorial debut film, Mid90s, is a coming-of-age story that emits nostalgia and innocence alongside the struggles that come with growing up. The life of a young 13-year-old living in 1990’s Los Angeles is told through his befriendment of a group of skaters and his battle between his new friends and his rough home life.

 

The film is centered around Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, who is constantly berated by his older brother Ian, (Lucas Hedges), and coddled by his single mother (Katherine Waterston). One day, he visits a local skate shop where he seems to see his entire future in four boys who’ve devoted their lives to skating: Ray (Na-kel Smith), Ruben (Gio Galicia), Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), and one character whose name is too explicit to reveal, played by Olan Prenatt.

 

Stevie’s welcomed into the group after being nicknamed, “Sunburn”, and spends countless nights teaching himself to skate in order to keep up with his new gang. The lives of the five boys begin to depict the many unseen realities of growing up, including the messy dynamics of family, decisions for a future self, and relations between friends. One of the boys begins to spiral into a life of alcohol and substance abuse which ends up putting all of their lives in jeopardy. Despite this, the boys manage to bond in a closing scene thanks to the underrated Fourth Grade.

 

Connections between characters and Ray’s father-like guidance of Stevie explores the help we sometimes need as we grow up. With the rest of the gang representing the downfalls of teenagers, Ray prevails as a mediator to life’s problems when Stevie’s hardships with Ian and his mother become too much for him to handle.

 

The story transcends the cliche depictions of the era and instead creates a more realistic journey through the life of a teenager in the 90s. With this, Hill is able to focus more on the story at hand without the cringey typical depiction of teenagers. Equally impressive, the reality of one of the world’s most dangerous sports is properly demonstrated by Stevie and his novice skating accidents. The subtle and somewhat immature humor that Hill employed in his acting career is used in scenes like this to balance the serious tone of the film.

 

Hill’s casting decision made the film incredibly genuine. As devoted skaters prior to their casting, the five boys are able to play their roles accurately and authentically. I believe their Mid90s casting allowed them to live out the dreams they held as characters to some extent in real life. I appreciated the film more knowing that these weren’t actors cast as skaters, but instead real skaters turned actors.

 

The well-devised soundtrack scored the film perfectly. It’s careful curation hailing from the 90s itself highlighted the contrast between the decade’s punks like Ian and skaters like Stevie. Bad Brains, Misfits, Pixies, and Nirvana reflect the angsty rock of the era where The Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, and Souls of Mischief reflect hip-hop definitive of the time. The film ends with The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By,” bringing the story to a satisfying close. The rest of the soundtrack was written partly by Trent Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails frontman, bringing a piece of the 90s right into the film.

 

Jonah Hill created a film that resonates with people’s teenage experiences even while being set 25 years in the past. For his first film, Hill managed to create a quality story with enough originality and attention to detail that sets it apart from other films that pay homage to the decade and has made Hill’s career as a director look promising after this must-see debut.

 

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About the Writer
Sophia Scorziello, Arts Editor

Sophia Scorziello is a senior at Stamford High School and is happy to be this year's arts editor. Aside from writing for the Round Table, she enjoys playing...

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Jonah Hill’s debut film pays homage to the 90s with a coming-of-age story