Sunday, March 14

Kid 90 Review

By Emery Snyder @leeroy711
Director: Soleil Moon Frye
Starring: David Arquette, Stephen Dorff, Sara Gilbert, Balthazar Getty, Jenny Lewis, Brian Austin Green & Mark-Paul Gosselaar
HULU Original – March 12, 2021

This coming-of-age documentary gives us a glimpse of what it was like growing up as a child star in the 90s. Written and directed by “Punky Brewster” star, Soleil Moon Frye, this film is composed of a unique combination of newly captured interviews interlaced with archival footage that Frye collected in her formable years.

I’m just a bit younger than most of the people featured in this film. But as a 90s kid and a TV junkie, I still feel as though I grew up with a lot of them. “Saved by the Bell”, “Roseanne”, “Growing Pains” and even a little “SeaQuest” could all be found illuminating my cathode-ray tube on any given weeknight. And although I never really got into “Punky Brewster” as a child, I was aware of it and have revisited the series in recent years with my wife.

If you’re interest is peaked for that nostalgic heart-string pull, this film will deliver. But it has a lot more to offer. The fact that Fry obsessively documented this era of her life, both on video and recorded voicemail; and by proxy, the lives of so many other stars that she was close to, gives this the feel of an art project, three decades in the making. And the raw, tender and honest look we are gifted is both comforting and thought provoking.

As the film begins, we touch on some of the perils of the Hollywood life for developing children. The film and TV industry is as destructive a machine as any other, with rea-word adult risks and consequences for those that work in it. We don’t send children down into coal mines or into factories anymore and I’m left to wonder if we should be thinking more about it in those terms.

But on the other hand, the intimacy of this documentary has such a familiar feeling to it that you can’t help but see yourself in some of the footage. These kids may have grown up in a different world, but it was one that was parallel and analogous to ours. They experienced all of the same insecurities and identity crises that were simply built into the developing adolescent human. The limelight may amplify and magnify what young celebrities go through, but I’m not sure how much it actually makes it worse.

The era matters as well. In some ways, the nineties were far crueler, especially if you were

different. But as we listened to Frye’s voicemails from anonymous callers, spewing hatred and vulgarity, I couldn’t help but think of today’s young stars and how much more access today’s hatred has to them. YouTube comments, Twitter and Instagram have a way of nurturing that toxicity at levels that the cast of this film could have never imagined having to deal with.

In the end, the film is much less interested in answering any of these questions than it is in providing a safe environment for its subjects to explore. We finish on an inspirational and therapeutic note as the movie somewhat morphs into a “making-of” documentary of itself. The takeaway, that the act of reflection can give clarity once unattainable is spelled out in real time as Frye seems to reinvent her own thesis. It’s almost as if she didn’t realize why she was making this piece until its completion. These folds only add to the film’s candid honesty.

My only real issue was that I can’t help but imagine what footage ended up on the cutting room floor of this seventy-one-minute glimpse into a decade of interesting lives. I spent a large part of the nineties living vicariously through the people on screen and I could have spent more time reflecting on those years through their sincerest moments.

Emery’s Rating
3.75 out of 5 Stars
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