The tension in producer-writer-director Jonah Hill’s evocation of a recently bygone era (he was 13 in 1996, just like his protagonist here) is there from the outset: in the opening scene, older brother Lucas Hedges beats the crap out of slight star Sunny Suljic. Heads up, folks, this is a story of abuse and neglect of various kinds; the kid, having experienced plenty of violence, language, and adult situations at home, is quick to slip into an R-rated lifestyle outside it, to frightening effect — even if the film seems ambivalent on that score. A minute later, the beaten boy pores over the contents of said older brother’s bedroom and so invites the viewer of a certain age to smile and say, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” over and over, culmi-nating in an immersion into the period’s skater culture. A note on that ambivalence: it’s hard to tell if Hill is boldly refusing to adopt a point of view regarding dysfunction and its discontents, or if he just isn’t quite sure what to make of it. His love for his characters is palpable, and while there is undeniable appeal to the notion of love without judgment, there are moments here that seem to argue that judgment is precisely what love demands.
Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes