Film has an enormous potential to connect with its audience in a vast array of ways. When done correctly, film can inspire empathy, transport audiences to places they’ve never been and present complex ideas and situations for audiences to ponder. In “Mid90s,” director Jonah Hill succeeds in bringing audiences into the world of the 1990s.
Immediately striking is the attention to detail brought by Hill in creating this film. Every precaution was taken to ensure that nothing on screen would betray the atmosphere cultivated. Everything, including the clothes, logos and even the garbage on screen is period-appropriate for the film. This is crucial, because one of the greatest successes of the film is that it portrays a distinct culture during a finite time.
The story of “Mid90s” follows a young boy played by Sunny Suljic. Suljic’s performance is outstanding, especially for an actor of his age. The cast is bolstered with the appearance of Lucas Hedges as the main character’s abusive older brother. The plot follows a young boy as he seeks an escape from his unstable life at home. He then finds a group of skateboarders that accept him.
The actors cast as these skaters feel authentic because they are skaters first and actors second, which does not detract from their performances but helps them to be especially realistic.
Overall, the film’s greatest strength is its commitment to authenticity. From the obsessive attention to detail to the casting of real skateboarders, “Mid90s” is committed to building a world for its audience to enjoy.
Within this world, audiences will find plenty of experiences to relate to. The film masterfully captures distinct feelings from childhood. Hill’s characters struggle with relational conflicts between siblings, desiring to be like the older, cooler kids and longing to fit in with a group.
These themes are conveyed throughout the larger plot of the story but are also emphasized in smaller scenes in between. The film succeeds in portraying the larger coming of age narrative but also tells smaller stories that many audience members will relate to throughout.
The film succeeds in telling a specific story that very well could have happened in the ‘90s, but it also tells a story with elements that have likely happened to each one of us. Its success is that it conveys something that is at once specific and universal.
For all its successes, the film is not perfect. At the beginning of this piece, film has an enormous potential to connect with audiences in a variety of ways. While it is obvious that the film succeeds in creating a world and teleporting its audience there, the film could have done more to present a grander thematic idea to its audience. This lack of driving idea does not detract from the overall experience, but it is a missed opportunity that could have caused the film to be even greater.
In Hill’s directorial debut, it is clear that he has a deep passion for the subject matter he seeks to portray. This shines through in his attention to detail, casting choices and even the language used throughout the film. These factors culminate in a movie that succeeds in authentically portraying a specific moment in history, while at the same time giving audiences something that they will be able to relate to.