Philip Price’s review published on Letterboxd :
Honestly, and unfortunately, this might have benefited from being the debut feature of a previously unknown filmmaker rather than that of the writing and directing debut of someone who has worked with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Bennett Miller.
That being said, Jonah Hill's directorial debut is very much his own style, his own thing, which is better than him having tried to ape the style of one of his previous directors. Shot entirely on 16mm and utilizing a 4:3 aspect ratio, one truly feels as if they're experiencing a video made in the era from which the film takes its name. This goes for the spotty ADR in portions as well though I can't tell if this was fully intentional.
What is great about Hill's restrained screenplay and promiscuous style of filmmaking though, is that it does ultimately result in this genuine portrait of his subjects which is all Mid90s is really trying to do: provide an authentic representation not only of life two decades ago that feels like yesterday and so long ago simultaneously, but of this time in life in which innocence dissolves into experience. As the father of an almost four-year-old and someone who has a soft spot for nineties nostalgia (I was born in '87) the loss of innocence pains me to a greater extent these days. The ability to capture specific and brutally honest instances that depict this transition is where Hill's film flourishes.
The shortcoming of Mid90s is that, while the character work is fantastic and the non-actors Hill has cast generate a true bond between one another, there isn't much else going on. The strained relationship between best friends Ray (Na-kel Smith) and Olan Prenatt's hilariously nicknamed Fuckshit is a highlight as is thirteen-year-old Sunny Suljic's lead performance that carries the feature to some extent. It's near impossible to walk away from Mid90s and not feel the camaraderie between the core group of kids, but at a mere 84-minutes Hill could have had his cake and ate it too by fleshing his characters out further with a little more plotting.
Still, the music is great and Mid90s is intriguing enough that I'm anxious to see what Hill does next.