MID90S – Review by Susan Granger

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Actor-turned-writer/director Jonah Hill has crafted a street-smart, mid-‘90s memory piece about the early days of a pop phenomenon: the sub-culture sport known as skateboarding.

Life in Los Angeles is not easy for vulnerable 13 year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic), who is bullied by his older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges), whom he idolizes, although Ian beats Stevie up regularly. And Stevie, understandably, feels alienated from his self-absorbed, single mom, Dabney (Katherine Waterston), who had Ian when she was 18 and hasn’t matured much since.

One summer day, Stevie spies four punks going into the Motor Avenue Skate Shop. Following them, he pretends he’s shopping for a T-shirt while surreptitiously listening to what they’re saying.

Slowly, he edges into their midst and is acknowledged by Ruben (Gio Galicia), who sells him an old skateboard. When Stevie expresses his appreciation, Ruben chides him: “Don’t thank people because they’ll think you’re gay.”

Dubbed ‘Sunburn,’ Stevie is eventually accepted by this rowdy tribe, including ‘Fourth Grade’ (Ryder McLaughlin), whose nickname indicates the level of his intellect; loudmouth’d ‘Fuckshit’ (Olan Prenatt), whose language skills seem nonexistent; and their ringleader, Ray (Na-Kel Smith), an African-American who dreams of going ‘pro.’

The teens’ performances are utterly convincing, although Suljic is the only one with a professional background (“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”).

Making an impressive directorial debut, Jonah Hill astutely captures innocent curiosity, adolescent loneliness, a sense of spontaneous self-discovery and camaraderie.

Working with cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt on 16mm, Hill utilizes the episodic, naturalistic tone previously set by “Kids” and “Thirteen.”

Plus, there’s an authentic period soundtrack ranging from The Cure to Wu-Tang Clan, scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Unfortunately, however, the film ends somewhat abruptly, instead of offering a satisfying conclusion.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mid90s” is an insightful 6, an edgy coming-of-age saga.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.