Thursday, October 18, 2018

Movie with Abe: Mid90s

Directed by Jonah Hill
Released October 19, 2018

Jonah Hill grew up in the 1990s, born in 1983 and making his acting debut at age twenty-one in “I Heart Huckabees.” His early work was in comedies mostly produced by Judd Apatow, and since that time, he’s gone on to earn two Oscar nominations for slightly more serious work in “Moneyball” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” As he enters a more mature and increasingly legitimate stage of his career, Hill steps behind the camera for the first time with an engaging directorial debut that may not be based on his own experiences growing up but is certainly informed by what he knew and watched before he made his entrance into the industry.

Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is a thirteen-year-old boy living in Los Angeles. His mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) works hard and struggles to raise him and his older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges), whose bad attitude makes his frequent beatings of Stevie even more brutal. Lost and bored, Stevie becomes entranced by a group of young skaters, idealizing them and slowly joining their crew, spending his every free moment with the small, quiet Ruben (Gio Galicia), dim-witted filmmaker Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), smooth talker Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), and the cool leader of the group, Ray (Na-kel Smith).

This is an absolutely immersive experience, following Stevie as he first looks on with wonder at the cool kids skating around and then starts to become one of them. Stevie first connects with Ruben, who, like him, is diminutive and considerably quieter than the rest of the gang. The feeling of freedom that comes from spending time with them and doing nothing but talk and skate is evident in the way that Stevie looks around and at the camera, and the contrast to the isolating misery he experiences at home.

Suljic, who appeared in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” is a marvelous fit to play the starry-eyed Stevie, whose most endearing moments come when he is approached by a much bolder, much taller girl at a party who quickly both intimidates and amazes him. The other four boys are all excellent, with Prenatt and Smith standing out as future possibilities for what Stevie can become if he stays this course. This is a fantastic next step for Hill in his career, writing and directing an engaging and funny story that remains involving from start to finish, so perfectly calibrated and scored to the way that its characters see the world.


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