A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mid90s is an edgy coming-of-age story set in 1990s Los Angeles about an unhappy young teen named Stevie (Sunny Suljic) who finds his people: a group of skateboarding, drinking older teens. Expect lots of strong language throughout, especially "f--k," but also many others, as well as racist and homophobic slurs. There's a fair amount of fighting, including brutal bullying by Stevie's bigger brother. A sexual encounter between young teens, including the young-looking 13-year-old main character, is shown right up until the point that nudity would occur and is described in some detail later. Teen characters drink a lot, drive drunk, and smoke both tobacco and pot. Jonah Hill's debut as a writer-director also stars Lucas Hedges and Katherine Waterston.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Yes the content is a bit iffy (and mostly has no consequence), but it doesn't detract from the near-perfect writing on display
What's the story?
In MID90S Los Angeles, disaffected Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives unhappily with his domineering, bullying brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges), and his lonely, struggling single mother, Dabney (Katherine Waterston). Looking to find his people -- and his identity -- Stevie falls in with a group of older skateboarding teens (led by Na-kel Smith) for a summer of skating, drinking, bad decisions, and growing up. The film marks two-time Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill's debut as a writer-director.
Is it any good?
This edgy comedy feels autobiographical because the characters' little triumphs are too little to be lied about; the details feel real. The characters' aspirations may not involve saving the universe, but they seem entirely important to them. The dual facts of that smallness and the unvarnished, shall we say, "messed-upness" of Mid90s fuel its authenticity and make it more memorable than most coming-of-age tales. It's very much in the vein of Summer '03 and other unapologetic portraits of teen fumblings in all their glory (and stupidity). The relationships at home, especially the lack of empathy and respect that Stevie and his brother show their mom, will make adults cringe. These kids make some very poor decisions, including getting into a car with a driver who's clearly hammered. But they also find real friendship on the way to exploring who they may want to be.
Suljic certainly inhabits Stevie. He was apparently around 11 when the film was shot, which underlines the uncomfortable feeling that 13-year-old Stevie is simply too young for the things he's getting into. Waterston is sympathetic, and Hedges is a rising star. But the movie's real find is professional skateboarder/musician Smith as Ray, the ringleader. His understated performance is quiet and assured. It builds your confidence in this aspiring skateboarder -- who, it turns out, actually sees the people around him. Hill immerses viewers in the world of skate culture and teen indolence but dodges "skate porn" and "nostalgia porn" (though he did shoot the movie in old-fashioned 4:3 aspect ratio) to focus on real-feeling characters who have believable struggles. There are sequences of Mid90s that some viewers will find totally unacceptable, but (with the exception of one character not being in jail at the end) everything about it feels totally believable.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted in the movie? Is it taken seriously or casually? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Which audience do you think this film was intended to appeal to: teens or adults who were teens in the '90s? How can you tell?
Did your feelings toward the older brother change over the course of the film? How about toward the mother? Why do you think the kids were so disrespectful to her?
What were each of the friends' dreams, if any? Do you think they were realistic?
- In theaters: October 19, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: January 8, 2019
- Cast: Sunny Suljic, Na-Kel Smith, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges
- Director: Jonah Hill
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, sexual content, drug and alcohol use, some violent behavior/disturbing images - all involving minors
- Last updated: February 20, 2021
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