Year of Release: 2018
Production Companies: A24/Waypoint Entertainment/Scott Rudin Productions
For those who grew up in the 1990’s, it’s weird to look at period pieces or movies and shows from that era and see how things have changed since then, no matter how many people say that things are the same now as they were then. Sure, you can compare how much of a change between the 1980’s and 1990’s, and so forth, but when watching a movie like this, it really shows how things were different, especially in this day and age with people’s faces glued to their cellphones and the internet being huge. What’s funny to me is that I have read an article in the past about how no one could make a period piece about the 1990’s that is similar to “Dazed and Confused” and “American Graffiti,” but this may have proved that guy wrong (I can’t find the article, but if I do, I will update and link it).
The movie tells the story of Stevie, who is played by a young actor named Sunny Sujic. Stevie goes through life living through the physical abuse of his older brother Ian, played by Lucas Hedges, as well as living with their mother. Stevie looks up to his brother as he has a collection of rap CD’s from that era, ranging from Wu-Tang to Mobb Deep to Cypress Hill. At some point, Stevie linked up with a group of skaters at a skate shop and then started hanging out with them, trying to find his place.
Did I mention that this film was also the directorial debut of Jonah Hill? Well, he did not just direct this film, he also wrote it. It was clear that this movie was inspired by some other films, namely 1995’s “Kids,” as well as 1993’s “The Sandlot.” A lot of story elements come from the former, like how Stevie hung out with a group of skaters and getting into trouble, as well as doing things like smoking weed and drinking 40’s. How it compares to “The Sandlot” is that it focused mainly on the perspective of Stevie, as he was this film’s version of Smalls. However, unlike “Kids,” this movie is nowhere near as sinister, even though there was some sexism here and there, but if anything, it showed how kids were during that time, add to the fact that it really showed that certain elements would not fly in today’s world. Sure, some characters were not likable in this movie, but then you also had some cool guys and also while you may not like a certain character, you feel for him and also see that he has a softer side than previously let on.
One of the things that stood out about this movie was that it was shot on 16mm, so it was mainly in fullscreen with a 4:3 ratio. Part of me felt that this was intentional as widescreen was not really that much of a thing during that era, so maybe it was done to capture the feel from that time period.
Another that amazed me was that it was a short movie with a lot of story to be told and did not need to be stretched out for everything to understand the main events of it. This movie ran at 84 minutes, but it did not need to be longer to be better. Plus, many of the story elements had some resolution by the film’s end. What was also great was the soundtrack for the movie, as a lot of songs that were played were from a lot of great rap acts such as Cypress Hill, The Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan, Jeru The Damaja, Gravediggaz, etc.
On a personal note, I found myself relating a lot to Stevie as I had gone through some of the stuff that he had gone through. The main thing that reminded him of me was when he would go through his brother’s CD collection, as when I was a kid (preteen and also teenager), I used to go through my youngest uncle’s CD collection as he had a lot of what came out around that time. I have been a hip-hop fan for as long as I can remember, and I saw myself in Stevie, though I never suffered any sort of abuse. Also, another thing that made me relate to him was that I had trouble fitting in at times. I mean, yes, I had friends, but if you saw me during lunch breaks, I either kept to myself or would just hang out in a classroom with a friend of mine.
Jonah Hill really impressed me with his direction for this film. Sure, a lot of people may dismiss him for having done a lot of those crude comedies like “This is The End,” “Superbad,” ” The Sitter,” “Get Him to the Greek,” etc. but he has shown that he has talent, and that includes writing and directing. According to IMDB, he had to talk with some well-known film directors such as Martin Scorsese and Ethan Coen on the filmmaking process. Directing a movie seemed quite a step for him, but after seeing this movie, I wonder what he could do next. It really felt like a passion project for him, as it seemed like he put a lot of effort into making this movie work. Overall, this film was definitely worthy of an hour and a half of my time.