Released: 12th March
Seen: 27th September
Throughout the history of Hollywood, often those who have had it roughest going through the industry has been children and teenagers. There’s not just a long and disturbing history of abuse, but there’s also just kids who never got to see the money they earned or kids who had to grow up in front of a camera and lost their entire childhoods.
Some of these kids didn’t get to grow up fairly and ended up having serious problems that followed them throughout their lives, and some have made it out the other side with some horrifying and fascinating stories to tell. Kid 90 is the story of one of those kids, even though it promises to be about several of them.
Kid 90 exists because Soleil Moon Frye filmed and recorded everything as she was growing up as the famous Punky Brewster. Throughout the film, stories of this strange and public childhood are explored by Soleil and the many friends that she had while growing up, which included other famous teenage stars like David Arquette, Stephen Dorff, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Brian Austin Green to name but a few. As we explore the highs and lows of being a child star in the 90s, an incredibly intimate portrait of Soleil Moon Frye is slowly painted before our eyes.
When you look up the actual plot description of Kid 90, it says this film is “An intimate look at young Hollywood starlets growing up in the 1990s” but that’s kind of a lie. It’s not about the starlets of the 90s, it’s all about Soleil Moon Frye and if you go in knowing that you’ll get a lot more out of it.
Sure it touches on a few stories from other people who are interviewed, but those stories are either based on something suggested by Soleil or give her stories context. It’s still absolutely fascinating, this is a life well lived and documented that we get to sift through, but it’s nowhere near as broad a topic as it suggests.
Indeed, Kid 90’s intense focus on Soleil does at times go from fascination to deification. Within a few minutes the people being interviewed are talking about where they met Soleil or how they had a crush on her, to a point where it feels self-indulgent.
That moment doesn’t last long, fortunately the film seems to catch itself mid-freefall and adjusts to be more about Soleil’s life instead of just praising her, but it’s a bad foot to start off on because it’s just not a great tone to begin with.
Once we get past that mild moment of ego stroking, Kid 90 picks up considerably and almost uses Soleil’s life as a case study in how one might navigate being one of the biggest stars in the world during the 90s. It’s incredibly honest, detailing personal stories that are deeply emotional and powerful as hell.
This insane and incredible life is slowly unfurled before the audience, letting them in so much it’s like you were there in the room holding a young starlet’s hair while they worshipped at the porcelain altar. Its intimacy is so strong that by the halfway point, you’re completely invested and the earlier stumble is a distant memory… until right near the end where they kind of do it again, but it’s brief.
Kid 90 is fascinating, but also a lot more specific than the title and synopsis promises. If it had been a little more honest about what the film would really be about then it would be a lot better. Heck, if you want to see an actual film about the trials of child stars in general, look up Showbiz Kids which is basically the film this one promised it would be.
However, for what Kid 90 actually ends up being it’s an engaging glimpse into the life of a child star as they slowly navigate not only the changing world but their changing body and mind. It’s worth a look, just be aware of what it actually is before you hit play.