MID90s: Adolescents begin forging their own identities by the friendships they form. “Show me who your friends are and I’ll show you who YOU are” may be a parental cliché but clichés exist because they possess some grains of truth. Since thirteen-year old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives in a Los Angeles tract house with an assaultive, manipulative older brother (Lucas Hedges) and a single mom (Katherine Waterston) with a terminal case of arrested development, it’s little wonder that he’s willing to absorb the bumps, bruises and falls necessary to establish common ground and fit in with a gang of extreme skateboarders who become a sort of surrogate family to him. That pretty much sums up the minimalist plot that makes excellent use of music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to define the title period. The screenplay by rookie director Jonah Hill may be replete with anti-gay slurs, “f bombs” plus liberal use of “the N word” along with teens chugging quart bottles of cheap malt liquor and smoking weed, but at no time did I ever detect a false note from any of the dialogue which has an improvisational feel to it. Maybe that’s because real life skateboarders Olan Prenatt and Na-kel Smith play prominent roles in the movie and give convincing performances as teenagers bound together by their need to escape crappy home lives. Hill, the filmmaker, moves the story along at the sort of laid back pace consistent with the southern California setting and likely patterned the character of Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) who tapes all the goings on around him after himself. This isn’t a feel good, steeped in nostalgia sort of work because the abrupt conclusion, which features a rather gimmicky movie within a movie, leaves you wondering if either one of Stevie’s “families” are really the types he should be hanging with. Derivative as it is, MID90s strength is in its’ storytelling which more often than not has the unmistakable ring of truth to it. CRITIC’S GRADE: B
CLOSING CREDITS: The definitive film about skateboarding that can even be enjoyed by people who don’t like skateboarding is the exhilarating documentary DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS (2002). The movie chronicles the origin of the groundbreaking Zephyr skateboarders from Venice, California who resuscitated the sport in the ‘70s as well as their rather touching reunion years later. Made by skateboarding legend and original Zephyr Stacy Peralta, DOGTOWN features an excellent classic rock soundtrack and footage of some incredible moves gliding on the walls of drained swimming pools. The core of the work was turned into a Hollywood movie called THE LORDS OF DOGTOWN (2005) which was directed by McAllen native Catherine Hardwicke (THIRTEEN) and starred the late Heath Ledger (THE DARK KNIGHT), Johnny Knoxville (JACKASS: THE MOVIE) and Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER).