North Hollywood, a Coming of Age drama, centers around a teenager who wants to pursue his dream but is too afraid to wear it on his sleeve. Growing up under a domineering father, Michael (Ryder McLaughlin) turned out to be someone who stuffed his feelings inside, instead of expressing them. Michael wants to become a pro skateboarder, he doesn’t want to go to college, and yes he doesn’t have a plan for the future. From a practical outlook, one may define Michael as a confused millennial but he isn’t. He is just growing up and searching for a voice to express his passion.
The film begins in the North Hollywood region where Michael lives with his single-father, Oliver (Vince Vaughn). For Michael, his father is sometimes really annoying and the film begins with a particularly funny scene where Oliver coaches Michael on “how to shower” without spilling water outside it. An annoyed at home Michael finds his peace with his two other skateboard friends, Jay and Adolf with whom he routinely practices skateboarding in the nearby park.
The three lads have just finished their high school and the question of getting college arrives at their doorstep. Until now, Michael and his friends were working as altar boys in the church to support their cash flow, and skateboarding in the meantime. Life looks simple and beautiful, yet there are always twists and turns to it. Michael’s dad wants him to leave skateboarding forever and concentrate on college, because he won’t be able to manage both, not for long. Instead, Michael plans on ditching the college and choosing skateboarding as a profession. The journey starts to unfold and he is scared but if it’s really his dream, someday, he has to express it, or the world is going to suppress it.
North Hollywood is a finely drawn narrative focusing particularly on Michael and his confusions. The film has beautifully underlined the vagueness of unpopular career options that lack a middle ground. You either hit big or hit the rock bottom. But Michael manifests a forced self-confidence. Many perceive it as his ego but to Rachel, he communicates that no one supports or believes him, not even his dad. “I am all I have“, he says. With moments like these that touch your heart, the other part of the film is filled with people filling doubt into Michael’s confidence. Even his own self-doubt plays an integral role but much of the conflict arises from the airy tension between him and his father.
For a subtle indie drama, North Hollywood does its charm. Ryder McLaughlin playing Michael and Vince Vaughn as his father, are the stars of the film. The climax portrays their hearty revelations. Their ending conversation is undoubtedly moving. It could have been better if the writers had maintained a crescendo. The scene went from being emotional to absolutely flat in a matter of seconds that felt like a jump cut in between them. North Hollywood isn’t a perfect indie drama but it is soul-stirring.
In 2018, Jonah Hill marked his debut with an indie film, Mid90s that also showcases similar confusion and struggles just in a different age group. If you have a thing for slow, coming-of-age indie drama, these two films about skateboards are going to overwhelm your Cinema Desires.
North Hollywood is a 2021 comedy drama film written and directed by Mikey Alfred.
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