Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Mid90s – ambitious, shocking yet pretty ‘sick’ coming of age movie (QFT from 12 April)

Mid90s is a character study of a young lad called Stevie (played by Sunny Suljic) who is searching for belonging and a sense of community in ninety’s Los Angeles.

The first half of the movie sets up the cast of brash, misfit characters. Stevie lives with his once wild now reformed Mum (Katherine Waterston) and sullen yet bullying older brother (Lucas Hedges) who is never far from a large carton of orange juice.

Attracted to a gang of skater boys, he spends his days hanging out in their yard out the back of a skateboard shop. There he meets sullen Ruben (Gio Galicia), until now the youngest member of the gang; Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) who films everything and occasionally stands on a board; the aptly named FuckShit (Olan Prenatt) – despite what your Mum said about swearing not being clever, in this case it’s very funny; and Ray (Na-Kel Smith), the eldest and most cool with no need for a nickname.

Mop-haired Stevie sits quietly soaking in all he is told, unable to properly filter what is true and what is teenage nonsense. He barely speaks, but when he takes a spectacular tumble – I’m ashamed to say I roared out with laughter at the seriousness of his fall – he earns the respect of the majority of his peers and they start to look after him in their own substance-abusing, law-breaking way. The gang skate well, and Suljic disguises his real-life skill.

The twist comes half way through with the film’s single most problematic scene when we’re expected to swallow his brother revealing a thoughtful side to his otherwise bruising character, speaking out about history repeating itself, with Stevie not falling far from his mother’s tree of poor behaviour and poor company before she cleaned up her act. It’s then a tussle of love between the gang who are helping Stevie grow up all too quickly, and his family who struggle to repair their broken bonds.

Mid90s is shocking and deserves its 15 rating for many reasons: language, substance abuse, self-harm and injuries, never mind Stevie’s acceleration to second or third base. The skater-vibe runs throughout the film which is shot in an old-fashioned TV 4x3 aspect ratio as if captured on a good quality DV camcorder, and sometimes edited like a YouTube video with stunt repeats.

Unlike Stevie’s skateboarding, there are no wobbles in Jonah Hill’s confident feature directorial debut, with a powerful portrayal of longing and belonging, and great performances across its cast. Smith’s paternal side is tender yet believable. Waterston’s softer concluding scene acts as a keystone to lock in the previous 80 minutes. As a coming of age movie about a gang of drifters, the clichés are limited, the soundtrack uplifting, and overall Mid90s turns out to be an ambitious, disturbing yet pretty ‘sick’ film that leaves Lady Bird far in its wake.

Mid90s is being screened in Queen’s Film Theatre between Friday 12 and Thursday 18 April.

No comments: