Monday, October 8, 2018

Mid90s (2018) NYFF 2018 (plus Jonah Hill's introduction and post film Q&A)

Jonah Hill's MID90S was presented at the New York Film Festival in a Surprise Screening. Packed to the rafters the audience ate it up, while I was left shaking my head wondering why they were screening it.

The film is centered on Stevie who is living in a kind of hell with a brother who barely interacts with him, and then only to beat the shit out of him. Falling in with some skateboarders he finds a substitute family who teach him to smoke, drink take drugs and skate.

Looking like pretty much a couple dozen other first films, MID90S is kind of unremarkable. Frankly had Hill not written and directed it this would be a direct to VOD film. While Hill isn't a bad filmmaker, he only really shows his skill in flashes such as part of a party sequence where Stevie has a sexual encounter and a car accident scene. Mostly he simply points and shoots.

That may have worked if there was more on the screen, but the film, which runs a brief 84 minutes feels like it's missing an hour of material with most of the characters reduced to ciphers lacking back story. Who is his mother? We don't know much, and there is no sense of her at all. Lucas Hedges gives a largely vacant performance as Stevie's abusive brother. There is nothing there to him other than beating the shit out Stevie, showing a flash of caring in two scenes and revealing himself not to be tough in another. Who is this family and why are they like this? We don't know. There are only these hanging lines that connect to nothing. Frankly we know more about Stevie's friends thanks to one long monologue.

Forgive me for bitching but there is this sense of more that we aren't seeing. I kept wondering why Hill chopped all this stuff out. It was a feeling that was strengthened by stray comments in the post film Q&A. For example Sunny Suljic, who plays Stevie, apparently got on Lucas Hedges for blowing lines-how is that possible since he says almost nothing. Katherine Waterston mentioned working on scenes - but she barely has any. Where is all the material? I don't know but it isn't on the screen and as a result the film is less than it should be.

As the film stands its an okay film, no worse or better than dozens of other first films. Actually what the film really looks like is a Kickstarter proof of concept reel, Yea, it works but I want to see the finished product. Is it worth seeing? Perhaps maybe if  you are of a certain age or can fill in all the blanks you'll like it more.

MID90S opens in theaters October 19

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