WHAT I LIKED: Jonah Hill's directorial debut Mid90s is a beautiful portrait of how the community surrounding a shared youth culture (in this case skating in the mid-90s) can both help and hinder a troubled, anxsty young mind. We see Stevie (brilliantly played by Sunny Suljic) observe the comradery of a group of skaters as though we're seeing it through his very eyes, and then as he slowly makes friends with them he begins to find solace away from home despite exposing himself the dangers of drugs and alcohol, physical injury, and living outside the acceptance of adult society.
What's ultimately so brilliant about it though is that Jonah Hill and his cast so brilliantly paint a picture of all of those things, as the camera beautifully focuses on both small moments of laughter and friendship as well as the difficulty of the surrounding environment. In fact, the delivery of the whole thing is pretty naturalistic, as the script focuses on small things to paint a bigger picture, the performances are extremely subtle and genuine and the naturally-lit cinematography and sound design evokes the environment in a way that's completely tangible and all-consuming. What all of that means then is that the film ends up being the most objective portrait of its subject matter possible, as with such a genuine and sensitive portrayal, we really understand what Stevie sees in this fringe culture and can really feel for his character and his new-found friends. It's great filmmaking this, and it speaks volumes of Jonah Hill's apparent directorial ability.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: As with any naturalistic kind of film without much of an overall arc, the experience can be numbing rather than engaging at times.
VERDICT: A sensitive, semi-naturalistic and admirably objective portrait of adolescent comradery, 'Mid90s' is a promising start for Jonah Hill's writing and directorial career.