Fantastic Fest Movie Reviews Movies

Fantastic Fest 2018: “Mid90s” Review

It’s an especially great feeling when something truly Fantastic hits the Fest.

Photo courtesy of A24

“Mid90s” premiered on Monday, September 24, at the 2018 Fantastic Fest to much fanfare with director Jonah Hill and the cast in attendance. “Mid90s” marks the directorial debut of Hill and is already generating buzz in the indie scene due to its tenacity and notably young cast. The youngest cast member and star of the film was 13 years old at the time of the premiere.

To discuss “Mid90s” is to discuss beginnings. In the literal sense, we’re witnessing the beginning of a promising career as a director for Hill. We’re watching greatness take root in the performances of these young actors. That’s fitting since the film is, in many ways, about beginnings. Where we come from. The things that shape us. Starting on paths, both good and bad.

As mentioned previously, “Mid90s” is written and directed by Jonah Hill. Of course, many of us know Hill from mainstream comedies like “Superbad” and “21 Jump Street”; it’s hard to imagine him in the persona of indie director. Well, picture it and embrace it because Hill has a remarkable eye and puts on one hell of a production. It was such a pleasure to hear him speak on the creation of “Mid90s” at Fantastic Fest and to see how much love and care went into the piece.

Jonah Hill directing on set of “Mid90s” | Photo courtesy of A24

The film stars Sunny Suljic, Na-Kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, and Ryder McLaughlin.

Where to begin on “Mid90s?”

In this film, the time and place is everything. The ’90s represents the last “simpler time” in recent memory. I don’t have to wax poetic here on the impact of nostalgia, you know what I’m getting at. Whether you remember growing up in that time or recall the supposed innocence of a pre-9/11 America or you look back with rose colored glasses. Nostalgia is a powerful drug. It makes it all the more jarring when the film opens on a brutal beating. The sounds are the focus. Every person in my theater winced with every punch. Not even the warm embrace of nostalgia can save us. It’s tough growing up.

Los Angeles, as so often happens, becomes a character of its own as an ideal backdrop. As with the threads of the characters, Los Angeles is built on a foundation of potential and the choices we make.

Photo courtesy of A24

I was instantly enamored of Hill’s exploration of themes of brotherhood, the family we choose, fulfilling our goals and confronting the things that hold us back, and coming of age. The fact that this young cast carries the film so well is only made more astounding when you consider that adults only sparsely populate the cast. It just goes to show: growing up is something you do on your own. Nothing can really protect you from becoming yourself. For better or for worse.

Hill has an understated eye that is less about spectacle and more inclined to truth. The writing is relatable and reminds this critic of the foul mouth I had in high school – trying to get in as many swears as possible before going home. 

“Mid90s” would be nothing without this stellar cast. Young men that show a mastery of the craft well beyond their years. Goddamn, guys. Well done.  

I happily give “Mid90s” my highest recommendation. This cast will go far and I look forward to Hill’s next film. 

You can catch “Mid90s” in theaters on October 19!


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