Directed By Soleil Moon Frye
Starring – Soleil Moon Frye, Stephen Dorff, Brian Austin Greene
The Plot – An intimate look at young Hollywood starlets growing up in the 1990s, using hundreds of hours of footage captured by Soleil Moon Frye.
This film is rated TV-MA
– Teenage dream team. Being a teenage celebrity in the 90’s was such a rare commodity, full of friendships and life long links that Frye’s documentary articulates accordingly. Blessed with an abundance of first-hand guests and familiar faces asked to relive the days of their youth through documentation, there’s a certain charm and appeal to viewing everything that Dorff, Greene, Mark-Paul Gosselar, David Arquette, and an abundance of other pop culture faces see now in contemporary terms with adult goggles. The most rewarding for me is definitely Greene, who not only feels like a brother from another mother to Soleil, but also seems to have gone through the biggest transformation within the limits of life that often gives him the deepest depth of knowledge in being called to the attention of the discussion so often throughout. It’s crazy to think that all of these fresh-faced phenoms were often partying together under one roof, playing into the mentality of a particular age that didn’t have time for jealousy or pettiness in the way of living life to its fullest extent.
– Place in time. Easily the biggest advantage in the captivation that Frye elicits is the warm wave of nostalgia that blankets itself over the shoulders of its audience, reminding us of a simpler time through its cultural styles and aesthetic punch that is virtually inescapable throughout. This is where the production gets to execute sheer brilliance in the form of top notch editing that cuts and pastes together a barrage of interviews, commercials, and film footage to further enhance the appeal of its guests. What it does instead in return is visually seduce us with reminders of a time when anything can and often did feel possible, and now with Frye’s unlimited access to filming everything grants us the key in linking every talking point together visually for the benefit of the audience following at home. It’s a delve into a visual time capsule full of sex, drugs, and exhilaration in living a life without fear of consequences, and because of such solidifies Frye’s abilities in channeling a particular feeling of teenage exuberance that fictional cinema simply can’t touch.
– Leading lady. Frye is wise enough in outlining her own self-vulnerability most of all for the dissection of the camera. This helps to keep the atmosphere of the guests more light-hearted, but beyond that proves that the biggest intention of this story was the journey of self-discovery that has brought her to be the person she is today. In taking us through several revealing and graphically challenging moments, Frye instills a cautionary tale of sorts for the live fast, crash hard lifestyle that teenagers, famous or not, partake in, framing it with a lack of regret but also one that clearly outlines that some avenues are better left unexplored in the eyes of a teenage girl. Frye’s resiliency is most evident in a collection of memories that could’ve easily been her untimely downfall, ultimately leading us to a third act epiphany that summarizes everything with a self-appreciation that is most inspiring, and bravely candid for the woman who risked it all by letting the outside world in on her collection of memories.
– Musical montages. What really allows the imagery and cultures of the times to pop seamlessly in the foreground of the story are a series of exceptionally crafted montages that are complimented from some big name artists in the realm of 90’s music. Linda Perry, who was the lead singer of Four Non Blondes, an impactful soul band from around the time, assembles an array of talents like Eddie Vedder, Liz Phair, Nine Inch Nails, and The Cranberries to round out one of the more surprisingly eclectic soundtracks of the yearly movie calendar, and illustrate them vividly in a way that immerses us the audience in the very sounds that Soleil and friends lavished in during their wild ride. Because the list of artists feels so iconic in the fold of their respective places in music, it feels like one of the more expensive pieces of production that the film pulls off, and maintains sentimentality in the form of tracks that we associate with our own collection of memories to play simultaneously with what we’re seeing from Soleil.
– Brave. Even if self-indulgent to the point that the documentary reaches vanity levels of attention and focus, there’s still much credit to give to Frye, whose collection of memories and first-hand accounts doesn’t always paint her as a protagonist who can be easily appreciated. Soleil very much made a lot of questionable decisions on her way to coming out great on the other side, but it’s the way her often selfish and self-contained concern disappointed many friends along the way, leading to their untimely downfalls, which is most compelling. This could easily come across as a puff piece for Frye, but I commend her deeply for remaining true to the authenticity of the course, and allowing her journal’s deepest secrets to spring forth the kind of resonance that teenage emotions can spur. The film isn’t sympathetic, and Frye is most certainly not shy about her part in the bigger picture. A catharsis that proves much growth and maturity within the passion piece that she has taken three years to piece together.
– Footage hinderances. While not a problem that Frye could intentionally plan for in the eyes of a screening more than thirty years after its footage was initially established, there’s still hiccups with the presentation that doesn’t make this the easiest to watch in a high definition capacity. Particularly with the footage shot in a VHS video camera, the movements of the film feel stilted and disconnecting for the audience at home who are invested into the dynamic unfolding before our eyes, but then have to deal with unforeseen lagging to which there is no shortage of throughout this film. In addition to this, the overall presentation between this and the HD camera work of contemporary times used in between interview takes feels jarring and disjointing from a presentational perspective, jerking us between two completely different styles that never synonymously mesh well with one another as one cohesive capacity. It makes for an experience that is challenging for all of the wrong reasons, and one that periodically hindered my investment during key moments when the visuals worked handedly with what is being told in audible exposition.
– Brief run time. I’m all for keeping your presentation and story points trimmed in the eyes of smooth pacing, but the 67 minute run time hinders the poignancy and emotional resonance that some of these stories required more thoroughly. In particular, the lack of attention given to teenage sexualization in Hollywood, which is glossed over with constricting urgency that completely obscures the bigger picture within Soleil’s self-discovery. Also straining are the transitions between conversation points, which persist with very little subtlety or nuance in avoiding the conventionalism of a biographical piece with a series of bullet point discussions. It lacks the kind of spontaneity needed in harvesting some jaw-dropping discoveries and traumatic instances along the way, and could’ve been done much better if Frye aimed for a more traditional run time that explored these topics instead of just observed them from a distance.
– Strange framing. This is an instance where things that were thought of as harmless in the 90’s don’t exactly feel inconsequential when approached with an experienced pallet. Two such instances in this film are more than a little alarming when you consider they existed in the realm of teenage partying and carelessness. The first observes Mickey Rourke, then in his mid 20’s, frequenting many of parties with Soleil and her friends. One could look at this as possibly harmless on its own, but when coupled with troubling circumstance that enveloped Rourke around the same time, you can’t help but wonder if his appearances were anything but angelic. The second, and more focused circumstance is with Charlie Sheen, then 28, taking Soleil’s, then 18, virginity. This is definitely legal, but what’s more troubling to me is the way that Soleil and the film paints it as this May to December romance between two star-crossed lovers who can’t be together, when in reality Charlie basically treated her like his dirty little secret, hiding her from the press and his family, and bringing her out when it was convenient for him.
– Missed opportunities. “Kid 90” had the ability to be one of the more thought-provoking and momentous occasions from documentary of 2021, but unfortunately this is a vanity project for Frye that doesn’t always get off the ground towards exploring bigger, more meaningful themes. Sexualization of teenage actors, drug addiction, and especially teenage suicide are plagues that this group of young starlets feel fully immersed in, which in turn could lead to several compelling discussions and contrasts between them that could appeal to the audience at home. That doesn’t happen, and instead the whole experience feels like a bunch of strangers watching home movies, the kind to which even the celebrity charms wears off of halfway through, when Soleil moves to New York and befriends a new group of teenagers who are celebrities in the loosest definition of the word.
My Grade: 6/10 or C-