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“I always have to remember to hit pause before I start to feel something,” says single mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) to her two sons early in Superbad actor Jonah Hill’s directorial debut. She’s talking about dating, but her maxim also works as a neat summation of the problems with this film about a 13-year-old skater named Stevie (Sunny Suljic) in Los Angeles circa 1995. Each time the narrative goes in a darker or more emotionally charged direction, its momentum screeches to a halt.
The otherwise innocent Stevie begins hanging out with a gang of older boys; languorous sequences see them drinking, smoking, going to parties and snaking down the freeway on skateboards at dusk (to Morrissey’s We’ll Let You Know in one lovely scene). The film is shot in super 16mm and pays close attention to period detail; a Street Fighter II T-shirt here, a row of cassette tapes there. Hill has a good instinct for how this kind of movie should look and feel but its aesthetic is self-conscious. The attempts at authentic stoner dialogue soon become tedious, with too little plot or character development grounding the inanity (Hill’s self-written script also features an eyebrow-raising overuse of the N-word).
Sporadically, the director interrupts the boys’ banter with disturbing moments of self-harm (Stevie wraps a cord too tightly around his neck and rubs his thigh red raw with a hairbrush), which suggest the tone he is aiming for is serious rather than breezy, but these explosions of repressed rage and self-loathing are abandoned as swiftly as they are introduced, an ineffective shorthand that strives and fails to telegraph the backstory.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Mid90s review – skater film that keeps screeching to a halt | Comedy films