Written and directed by Jonah Hill, Mid90s follows aimless adolescent Stevie (Sunny Suljic) as he falls in with a crew of tough yet goodhearted skaters – with the movie detailing Stevie’s escapades with his new friends and his ongoing encounters with an oblivious mother (Katherine Waterston’s Dabney) and abusive brother (Lucas Hedges’ Ian). There’s an authenticity to Mid90s that’s initially quite difficult to resist, as first-time filmmaker Hill, having clearly been inspired by Larry Clark’s Kids, delivers a rough-around-the-edges drama that benefits substantially from its down-to-earth, low-key sensibilities – with, especially, the various performances going a long way towards perpetuating the almost documentary-like atmosphere. It’s equally clear, however, that the uneventfulness built into Hill’s screenplay eventually does become oppressive, with the meandering, hang-out structure losing its charm steadily as the movie very slowly-but-surely progresses. The coming-of-age bent of the central character’s storyline is pleasant enough, certainly, and yet there’s no denying that its familiarity ultimately exacerbates the picture’s progressively less-than-engrossing vibe. The end result is a decent debut that possesses plenty of elements worth admiring (including an unexpectedly strong conclusion) but never quite becomes the engrossing work Hill has obviously intended, which is a shame, certainly, given that the fledgling director effectively elicits better-than-expected performances from his actors and has an admittedly strong eye for compelling visuals.
** out of ****