For his first feature outing as writer/director, Jonah Hill has made several interesting scenes; what he hasn’t made is something that holds together as a movie. The title refers to the temporal setting, a Bill Clinton-era Los Angeles where 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) seeks escape from his bullying older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) and a sense of belonging with a multi-ethnic group of older teen skateboarders. There’s an effective awkwardness to the scenes of Stevie trying to fit in with guys he idolizes—though Hill does achieve Tarantino-esque levels of “white guy dropping n-words in his writing because he thinks it gives him street cred”—and appealing performances from the young, largely inexperienced cast members. It’s simply hard to get a handle on the dynamics of Stevie’s home life, as Stevie’s periodic moments of self-harm feel uncomfortably like a grasp at “seriousness,” while both Ian and Stevie’s single mom (Katherine Waterston) remain frustrating ciphers. Filmmakers seem to think there’s an authenticity to episodic tales of near-feral unsupervised adolescents, but you can still tell a story that coheres as more than a collection of coming-of-age greatest hits.
Director: Jonah Hill
Producer: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Ken Kao, Jonah Hill, Lila Yacoub, Scott Robertson, Jennifer Semler and Alex Scott
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie, Katherine Waterston and Olan Prenatt