Making his directorial debut with Mid90s, Jonah Hill has created a film that embodies the golden age in one’s life where you start to discover who you truly are. The film follows 13-year-old Stevie, who makes friends with a group of skaters over a summer in Los Angeles. With a troubled home life, Stevie tries to figure out how he fits in with the world around him as he hits his teenage years. His haven is a skate shop where he meets and befriends a group of older skaters.
The film as a whole is fun to watch—Jonah Hill utilizes skateboarders, not professional actors for the roles in the film, so the camaraderie and chemistry between the characters is very real and effortless.
While watching interviews with Jonah Hill about the film, he mentions that Mid90s is a period piece film, but the period is the `90s, not the 1890s, but the 1990s. He says that when people usually think of a period piece film, they think of historian films that explore the 1900s or earlier. This statement makes total sense after watching the film. In old historical films, we watch as the characters have to deal with their day-to-day life, albeit with a royal court or some horse drawn buggy.
With Mid90s, we watch as the characters deal with day-to-day life in the 1990s. Everything from the fashion to the lack of cell phones, to watching the kids smoke, drink, and skate. They’re living their lives, and we as the audience are on this journey with them. A lot of this film has to deal with how to grow up as a man, and the pressures of how to look in front of others. The film also happens to be shot on 16mm film with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is also very `90s-esque.
One aspect that stood out to me about the film is that there is a lack of female characters. Well, there are female characters, but they aren’t full-fledged, three-dimensional characters. They’re a sexual interest to the main characters; more of an object and less of a person. From being one of the very few female skateboarders at a skatepark at any time, skateboarding definitely feels like a bros club. The women are the outsiders who watch, cheer, and support the men.
What may seem like a crappy life to one person would seem like heaven to another. Ray talks about losing his younger brother and how another skater, Fuckshit, came to his house and made him go out and skate. His friend was there for him. It was the friendship forged through skateboarding that helped Ray cope with the death of his brother. After finishing his story, Ray takes Stevie out skating for the rest of the night.
There was just something so real in that moment of the movie that tears were in my eyes during that whole scene. To have friends like that would be anyone’s ultimate dream, and even though I am a girl, when I do go to the skatepark or hang out with some skaters, there is this feeling of community—this sense of belonging because everyone is there for the same reason: to skate. It’s amazing that this little toy can bring people together, and create these lasting bonds and memories.