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In his directorial debut, Jonah Hill delivers a tender burst of nostalgia with the charming coming-of-age dramedy Mid90s.
The heartwarming film follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic)—a sweet 13-year-old boy growing up with a young, single mother (Katherine Waterston) and a moody, introverted older brother named Ian (Lucas Hedges) who pushes Stevie around whenever he can. So Stevie searches his working-class Los Angeles suburb for somewhere to belong, finding his scene when he meets an eclectic group of neighbourhood skateboarders.
The film is bursting with heart, filling viewers with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a pre-digital, skateboarding era that filled most people’s youths. Here are some of the best nods to the ’90s in Mid90s.
It’s no secret that the ’90s weren’t necessarily the most stylish of eras. But Hill stays true to the decade with baggy t-shirts, light-washed denim, chunky skater shoes, shoelace belts, and of course glittery barrette clips for the girls that instantly send viewers back in time. We’re leaving returning to this aesthetic to the Instagram models, but we still appreciate the throwback look.
Probably the biggest nod to the ’90s is the film’s use of cassette tapes and CDs. While we’re sure we all can admit to having our own burgeoning collection of these, Stevie’s collection is rather small, so when his brother is out he sneaks into Ian’s room to listen to his tapes. With a period-specific soundtrack that ranges from the Pixies to Wendy Rene and Wu-Tang Clan, Mid90s takes viewers on a gleeful trip down memory lane with popular CDs that shaped the decade.
The ’90s brought about some pretty interesting slang but one word that seemed to be in everyone’s mouths was “cool.” The word is probably used every couple minutes or so in the film by all the characters. They use it whenever they get the chance, regardless of whether or not it’s grammatically correct or actually makes sense in the intended sentence, but didn’t we all back then?
Stevie’s new friends are older and more experienced in everything like skateboarding, hip hop, and girls. Stevie seems very green, but his plucky resilient attitude proves he’ll attempt even the most insane stunts in an effort to be accepted by the Motor Avenue crew. It’s this desire to fit in by going with the flow that stands out within an era where what was seen as “cool” was constantly changing. Stevie’s new friendship with the crew gives him an unprecedented sense of worth, but it also places him in more dangerous situations that parallel the cliché moms always said to kids growing up: “If your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it too?”
The film is shot in a square format, much like what would fit perfectly on one of those small Panasonic TVs with the VHS slot on the front from way back when. One member of the skate crew, known as 4th Grade, spends the entirety of the film videotaping the Motor Avenue guys with his clunky VHS camera and plays the montage for everyone at the end of the film. This old school video camera creates that classic fish-eye scope and grainy effect much like that of our own home videos from the era.
The film revolves around ’90s skate culture, reviving the inner skate kid in all of us with each scene. As skateboarding entered the ’90s, things were pretty exciting and the rawness of street style skateboarding was having a moment. Pros like Rodney Mullen, Tony Hawk, Matt Hensley, and more were idolized by young kids like Stevie for their smooth tricks and big airs. Watching the film’s characters skate will have you reminiscing on your own skate days and eyeing that old skateboard collecting dust in the garage.
Catch Mid90s at the 43rd annual Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, September 14 before it skates into theatres October 19.