By DRAKE LOHSE
There’s something that’s fast disappearing from the world these days—something that’s being drowned under a wave of Twitter and Instagram and mumble rappers. The experience of growing up. Of getting muddy, grass stains and knees bloody, pedaling as fast as you can to get home for dinner on time. Forging new friends amongst the sticks and those hushed celebrations that come when you realize you’re one of the gang.
With “Mid-90’s,” you get all that back. It might just be for an hour and a half (the film is unusually short with a 1-hour, 24-minute run time) but director Jonah Hill knows how to pack a punch that lasts a lifetime.
The film, four years in the making, is Hill’s opus. Set in Los Angeles in—you guessed it—the mid-90’s, it centers around Sunburn, a young boy realizing for the first time the perils of the world around him. With his father not around, he hears the sounds from strange men in his mother’s bedroom and dreams about far-away places. Something of a loner, young Sunburn begins wandering the streets, looking for somewhere to belong. He stalks a local skate shop and soon enough is taken in by a rabble-rousing skate crew, who christen him with a brand new skateboard and a nickname.
In a film that feels all too personal, you’ll find yourself bouncing up and down in your seat, cheering Sunny on as he becomes a man—those little moments of acceptance and triumph become all too familiar. When Sunny lands his first kick, you’ll raise your fist, and from that moment forward, you’re in this thing with him. With Sunburn, you’ll lose your virginity, try drugs, ride around in a car without your parents and try your hardest to say something that makes the older guys laugh. You’ll smoke cigarettes and mumble under your breath at your mom because she just doesn’t understand. But you will.
It becomes evident throughout that the film was a massive risk for director Jonah Hill. If you’ve ever skateboarded, you know just how vital it is to have at least one member of your crew filming—trying to make the ultimate skate video that encapsulates not only your inventory of tricks but your dedication to the life. It’s traditionally very difficult to make the skate tape that captures both, let alone all the angles that come with high speeds, kickflip, and ollies. But that’s where Jonah Hill comes in. As far as actors go, Hill enlisted virtually no professional help. He hit the streets and plucked actual skateboarders from drained swimming pools and the pits. From there, it’s obvious that Hill is a perfectionist. It took four years, but Hill may have done it— he may have just captured the ultimate skate film, one that grasps and holds onto the all-out raw power that skating can hold over the lives of young boys and the brotherhood it forges.
It’s rare that a film can so saturate itself with corn and cheese and still be gripping, but “Mid-90’s” will make you laugh, cry and jump up and down in all the right places. And with a soundtrack that takes you back to hijacking your older brother’s music collection, you’ll have all those little moments from the film stuck in your head for a long time. And in that way, “Mid-90’s” becomes a true masterpiece—a film that you can take home with you. If you do go see it, don’t bother buying popcorn. You’ll be far too entranced to bother touching it. 9/10.
GRAPHICS BY HANNAH COHEN