It’s 10am around Halloween 2018 and (as actors will tend to do) I’ve managed to work myself into quite a mood. With the Holidays approaching and dealing with the pressures of trying to land that perfect gig, my mind was a whirlwind of thoughts. My sister’s annual Halloween party was that weekend and I decided that I would not be in attendance I was a ruminative James Dean [not at all pretentious] or so I thought.
“Alright well, are you ok?”
My Sister texts.
“Yeah I’m just gonna watch this movie and like fallback for a while.”
Picture me slouching in the theater with a bottle of water, my old motorcycle helmet in my lap (from when I was a kid; apparently my head hasn’t grown much since) eating a bag of cashews with my boots propped up on the headrest of the chair in front of me (I was the only person in the theater).
I was about to see a little homegrown film written and directed by a guy you feel like you’ve known your entire life. That film is called mid90s and that guy is Jonah Hill. I shut my phone off and my eyes, shrink wrapped from the sleep I’d just pulled myself from 30 minutes prior, didn’t stay dry within 5 minutes of the nostalgic sights and sounds emitting from the large screen in front of me. Wu-Tang’s Tearz back lit the familiar stage of a room that looked just like mine as a kid: starring ninja turtle bed sheets (belonging to the main character, Sunburn, played by non-actor Sunny Suljic). It was clear within minutes of watching this film that it would be special to me (and likely anyone from the era) but it wasn’t too ‘try-hard’.
The film seemed to stand alone, casting waves of raw emotion non-chalantly. The cast was comprised of mostly non-actors portraying teenagers on the brink of deciding who they would be for the rest of their lives [or not] while existing in a “golden age” generation (where self-discovery included smoking your Mom’s cigarettes, hooking up with older girls, baggy jeans, and risking it all to decide where you stood in the pecking order.)
The soundtrack was so 90’s yet it crept up on you (queue Seal’s Kiss From a Rose playing unassumingly in the background at a restaurant where the family of Suljic’s character was having dinner). And akin to how iconic pro-wrestlers seemed when their respective songs blared from flame spitting tunnels during their entrances; each of the heart swelling anti-ballads were handpicked by the director to landscape specific scenes acutely.
In one of my favorite parts of the film [semi-spoiler] the teens are all together skating down a hill, weaving in and out of each other’s paths. There’s traffic on either sides of them while an early California sunset serves as the back drop. The Mamas and Papas 1961 emotionally overwhelming billboard hit, Dedicated to the One I Love, blankets the scene with such beauty it makes you feel like you swallowed a boulder.
For elder millennials, the film is a cascade of memories. For everyone else, a charmingly crafted treasure trove of life lessons [fall; get back up, be yourself, take chances] and alast, arguably the most famous line of the movie; “Alotta time we feel like our lives are the worst. But I think if you look in anyone else’s closet, you wouldn’t trade their shit for your shit.” As told by Ray, a charismatic, aspiring pro skater portrayed by non-actor Na-kel Smith, supreme skater. The film takes you on a journey from your past to a world you’ve never been and back [it’s incredibly grounding] And though one may think they’d have to be a specific kind of person (skater, hip-hop head, emo junkie) to have a heart connection with this one; you couldn’t be more wrong.
This is a story about life; and there’s something in it for everyone. I ended up going to the party, by the way: and it was lit.