Mid90s – Film Review

4stars

The film Mid90s accurately captured the adolescent sentiment that many people grow up with, the feeling that parents don’t understand our feelings, and the undeniable urge to seek out fun and excitement on our own terms, like I did when I was a teenager. I must have been 17 or 18 when I gave my 13-year-old cousin my World IndustriesWet Willy skateboard because to be totally honest, I sucked at skateboarding. From there he ran with it and fell in love with the sport. We would watch Shorty’s, Zero, Toy Machine, and Birdhouse videos on loop, to name a few. I would take him to our local community college, by trolley of course, to try to land some tricks and he failed most of the time, but it was still fun to go and mess around. Skateboarding is a rite of passage for a lot of people, especially those that don’t feel they fit in anywhere else. He was trying to find a niche or a tribe for himself, unfortunately he ended up giving up skateboarding and fell in with some other people and at 18, he was tragically killed. I will never forget those years we spent together, being young and free, bonding over skateboarding we became super close. Mid90s took me back to those days.

M905Jonah Hill makes his directorial debut and spent years working on making this film historically accurate in every way. He went straight to skateboard companies like Chocolate and Girl for old school 90’s gear and decks, and it worked. The film was also shot on Super 16 mm, which adds to the grittiness, giving it texture. The digital photoshopped feeling of recent movies isn’t felt here.

The film centers around Stevie (Sunny Suljic) or “Sunburn” as they call him, who is a regular lower-class kid living in Los Angeles with his single mom (Katherine Waterson) and older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He happens into a skate shop and ends up bonding with all the guys, they give him a skateboard and he becomes part of their crew. There is an instant bond there for him and he is eager to fit in.

He drinks forties with ease and takes puffs of marijuana like a seasoned pro, but the reality is that he is not an expert, he is just pretending to be one. I guess like most young people are, when they are trying to fit in and be accepted by their peers. It would be mortifying to ever admit that you never smoked weed or cigarettes, or that you never even tasted beer. Stuff like that could get you ousted from a group, so Stevie does what he thinks every normal kid does, he pretends he knows what he’s doing and feels like he is part of something. He smiles shyly when he knows he got it right with them.

M904New actor and real life professional Supreme skater, Na-Kel Smith plays Ray, who appears to be the voice of reason in the group. He wants more to life than just smoking and drinking, he wants to be a professional skater. He watches over Stevie and we can feel that he wants to make good decisions, but doesn’t always know how. He is the soul of the film, and one to watch.

Mid90s is reminiscent of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 classic Kids, and I am sure Hill took cues from it. The rawness that we felt in Kids, can be seen in this film as well, except it is not at the same level, where the camera was in the faces of teenagers making out and bashing other guys heads into the pavement and hearing the skull crush. I used to have to turn my head every time that scene came on. But a similar sentiment is felt in this film. 

The skaters are chased by cops, disrespected by their parents, and even each other. When one of the other kids Ruben (Gio Galicia), starts to notice that Sunburn is being favored by the older skaters, he picks a fight with him, and Stevie gives him back equal hard punches.

At home Stevie must contend with his older brother, who is the opposite of a skater, but also a figure of the 90’s. Dressed in Polo and baggy jeans and stud earrings to match, he was most likely someone influenced by the rap culture of the time. He seems angry and pissed off, they are two boys without a father figure in their life, and Ian proceeds to constantly beat the living hell out of his younger brother. Hedges is impressive in this role of the bitter older brother, the one who had to watch guys go in and out of his mother’s bedroom growing up, while Stevie did not. I think we might be seeing a possible Oscar nomination for him in this role.

Hill stepped it up and did a remarkable job at directing his first movie. I think people will be impressed that he didn’t imbue his film with Superbad raunchy teenage jokes or his sarcastic humor. Instead this movie felt real and I think it will strike a chord with a lot of people. Especially those like myself who grew up in the era where iPhones and Google didn’t exist. We figured things out on our own and we didn’t stare at phone screens, and these kids do the same with their life. They are just trying to make sense of it all and find their place in the world. All while hanging out with friends and listening to good music; and isn’t that what ever teenager is always trying to do.

Mid90s posterStarring: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie
Directed by: Jonah Hill
Written by: Jonah Hill
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 85 minutes
Rating: 4

Lady Bird – Film Review

4stars

LB5Lady Bird is a thoughtful and engaging coming of age story that depicts the melodrama that occurs in some teenager’s lives. It shows a time when most adolescents are self-absorbed, yet still dependent on their relationships with their parents. As much as they think they have it figured out; they don’t at all. The film Lady Bird is actor and screenwriter Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, and from what I saw this is certainly an entrance into what will one day be a well-versed filmography to look back upon.

The story is told from 2002-2003 a time that felt much different than today’s social media driven world. Considering it was post-9/11, when fears were being inbred into society, people were still not yet tied to capturing every moment of the news, nor were teenagers tied to their cellphones. Lady Bird is the name that high school senior Christine McPherson (Saorise Ronan) gave to herself because her given name just didn’t feel like her. She is filled with bravado, yet completely vulnerable to the realities of adolescence like heartbreak, rejection, and trying to fit in.

LB2The film is set in Sacramento, CA, an agricultural sleepy city, where Lady Bird feels like nothing happens, she wants to move to New York City, “where the culture is,” as she tells her mom when she tries to convince her to let her apply to colleges on the East Coast. Her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to stay in California, where in-state tuition will be cheaper and where she can stay close to the family. Marion is one of the most passive-aggressive mother’s I have ever seen on screen. She loves Lady Bird, we can feel it, but she never tells her she looks pretty or that is she doing great with her life. Instead it is a constant barrage of comments that she is not smart enough to get into a good school, an unappreciative brat, and lacks any grasp on the realities of the world.

One of the best scenes in the film is when Marion tells Lady Bird to fold her catholic school uniform and to take care of it because they cannot afford to buy more clothes because her father just got laid off. Who would want to hire a man with a family who looks disheveled, she tells her. Lady Bird says to her that wouldn’t it be great to have a mom who wouldn’t always make you fold your clothes, to which her mother retorts with “well my mother was an abusive alcoholic,” and walks away. In that moment we see the whole reason perhaps why her mother behaves the way she does and in a sense Lady Bird feels, but doesn’t really get it yet because she is too young. It is a defining moment in understanding the paradigm in her relationship with her mother.

LB3The film takes us through Lady Bird’s senior year, coupled with laugh out loud moments with her best friend, tenuous talks with school counselors, priests, and the head nun, and romantic possibilities and heartbreak. Gerwig gives us some teenage movie clichés, but she finds a way to mix them into feeling much more real and visceral, than other ones we have seen before. 

Ronan carries the film differently than she did last year with Brooklyn, where with that character she was innocent and longing, here she is completely vulnerable and somewhat extreme. She pushes the envelope because her character demands it, to have held back too much, or in the hands of another actress, the character could have been unlikeable and maybe even a bit annoying. Instead Ronan infuses her as the girl we have sometimes felt like, the one who says awkward things and tries too hard, yet also the girl who knows how to say just the right thing. 

LB4Metcalf was brilliant, I could see both actresses getting an Oscar nomination. The rest of the supporting cast played beautifully against the two women, Tracy Letts as the father, compassionate and soft against two forceful women, and Lucas Hedges (from last year’s Oscar nominated Manchester by the Sea) as Danny, and Timothee Chalamet as Kyle, her two pseudo-love interests. There was also her best-friend Beanie Feldstein as Julie, the shy and quirky best-friend who shone much brighter than she did as the ditzy sorority girl in Neighbors 2. I enjoyed the fact that not once did the movie make any note of Julie’s weight, it was never an issue brought to light as it so many times in movies. Instead it was never even a point of distraction or mention, which lent to the way the story was told.

By the end we see that Lady Bird can fly, she just needs to learn how to navigate her wings properly along the way. I would recommend this film to viewers and believe that it is worth seeing over some of the big blockbuster hits that will be coming out soon. Definitely one to watch in my book.

LB1Starring: Saoirse RonanOdeya RushTimothée Chalamet ,Laurie Metcalf, Kathryn Newton, Jake McDorman, Lucas Hedges, Danielle Macdonald, Lois Smith

Directed by: Greta Gerwig

Written by: Greta Gerwig

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 94 minutes

Rating: 4