Jonah Hill’s Debut Captures Real Skate Culture
LIKE PUNK OR METAL, SKATEBOARDING IS A HIGHLY SPECIFIC SUBCULTURE THAT HOLLYWOOD ALMOST ALWAYS GETS WRONG. That’s changing this year, however — following Crystal Moselle’s excellent Skate Kitchen, Jonah Hill’s Mid90s is another that manages to capture just how cool skateboarding really is.
“I think [Hill] just related to a time when he actually skated, so he knew what it was like,” pro skater-turned-actor Na-kel Smith says. “It wasn’t really an outsider’s perspective trying to shape up something they think is cool, or fun-looking. He’s taking a lifestyle that’s a part of him. He’s telling that story.”
Smith could’ve sniffed out any posturing from a mile away. After all, he’s skated for hip brands like Supreme, Fucking Awesome and Adidas, and served as a member of the Odd Future collective. With Mid90s, he’s proven he has some acting chops too.
“It’s definitely a form of expression that I didn’t know I had under my belt,” he says. “The thing about acting is you want it to feel real. It’s more about taking life experiences and emotions and bottling those up, and being able to open that bottle and take a sip.”
He’s managed to do just that with Ray, a character that serves as a source of wisdom and kindness in a film packed with toxic masculinity. Fed up with his home life, pre-teen Stevie (Sunny Suljic) finds his way in with a pack of skate rats who bond over debauchery and trash talk. When he needs it most, Ray is there to offer guidance.
“That’s how you know who your true friends are,” Smith says. “Because anybody can make a joke and laugh, but what’s somebody going to do when your back is against the wall or when you’re upset or when you’re depressed. That’s how you know who you want around you.”