Saturday, October 27, 2018

'Mid90's' Review: A Toxic Film with Nothing to Say

The last thing that anyone wants or needs to see in 2018 is a movie about how hard it is to be a privileged white kid trying to fit in with less fortunate kids. And yet, that is all that Jonah Hill's Mid90's is. And it doesn't even do it well.

Mid90's barely has a plot, but what it centers around is a young kid named Stevie (Sunny Suljic) who decides he wants to hang out with a group of skateboarders. That's about it.

The film flirts with many interesting ideas, but explores none of them. There are numerous films of Stevie inflicting self-harm, but the movie never explores the issue beyond just showing that he does it. It is implied that Stevie's mother, baffling played by Katherine Waterston, is a prostitute, but again this is never reckoned with within the family.

And despite the film playing it up that Stevie and his family come from a hard place, they are clearly in some way privileged. Stevie's brother, played by Lucas Hedges, has countless snapback hats and pairs of expensive sneakers. The boys seemingly have a Super Nintendo and a PlayStation. They live in a house that has a guest-house out back. Drama only ensues when Stevie decides that he wants to be a skateboarder, which he decides after watching a group of skaters bully a shop-owner. The entire thrust of the film involves a white kid seeing a group of bad kids, and deciding he too wants to be a bad kid. There's nothing to root for here.

Just about every character around Stevie is infinitely more interesting, and would make for such a better main subject for a film, but most are developed barely, and most only be lip-service. And most of them are complete shitheads. They throw around words like "retard" and "faggot" constantly. Is this authentic to the way that young men spoke at the time? Probably. But it doesn't make for characters we want to spend time with in 2018. It's quite disgusting.

The only character we can almost get behind is Ray (Na-Kel Smith). He is goodhearted, and has goals that he is intent on pursuing. But in a critical moment in the film, he is the one that makes the most unbelievable decision. Any goodwill the films manages to form instantly implodes under the weight of its own idiocy.

The movie boasts original music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, but in most moments opts instead for a needle-drop moments of hip-hop music. I literally can't recall a single moment from the film where original score is audible.

The movie also has gross sexual politics. In the film's only "romantic" scene, Steve has a hookup at a party. He speaks kindly to a girl for about 3 minutes before she decides that she will reward him with sex, because he is not an asshole like most boys. In a incredibly awkward love scene, Stevie, who appears to be about 11 years old, engages in sex with a girl that is about 3 feet taller than him, and also appears to be several years his senior. It comes off as borderline statutory. And in the end, after all his gentlemanly talk, Stevie runs out of the room and tells his friend how many fingers he fit into the girl's vagina. It is fowl.

Even at a brief 84 minutes, Mid90's is a film that can't end soon enough.

I give Mid90's a 1 out of 5.