Synopsis: As a teenager in the ‘90s, Soleil Moon Frye carried a video camera everywhere she went. She documented hundreds of hours of footage and then locked it away for over 20 years.
Stars: Soleil Moon Frye, David Arquette, Stephen Dorff, Balthazar Getty, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Brian Austin Green, Tori Leonard, Heather McComb
Director: Soleil Moon Frye
Running Length: 71 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Although I know now there was a lot going on the world I wasn’t aware of when I was a young child in the early ‘80s, it holds so many warm memories of growing up that I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t want to go back and relive that time of my life. Yes, the fashion was “truly outrageous”, the hairstyles were ghastly (or was that just mine?), and taste in general leaned toward gaudy excess but…what fun it all was! Moving into the ‘90s is when reality started to set in for my sphere of consciousness and more self-awareness led to less freedom of expression. You can see the shift in movies, television, and music as well, especially as the early part of the decade gave way to the mid ‘90s. When I tell you that I love the ‘80s it’s only because my current relationship with the ‘90s is…complicated.
A documentary like Hulu’s Kid 90 is both a blessing and a curse for someone like me who devoured pop culture throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s because it allows me to marvel at the stars I used to think were the “cool kids” but also feel the sting seeing the flip side to what all that adoration can do to someone so young. While we’ve read many a cautionary tale of brilliant artists that have been taken too soon, either by accident, by their own purposeful hand, or through the overindulgence in substances that led to their eventual demise, it was always different when it was an actor your own age because it was often your first reality check with mortality.
Directed by and largely framed within the context of the life and career of child star Soleil Moon Frye who broke big early on with her starring role on Punky Brewster, it begins with Frye recounting her trajectory to fame and interspersing interviews she conducted with her old Hollywood friends throughout. While it may have been obnoxious to her friends and family back then, Frye carried her video camera with her everywhere and has hundreds of hours of footage of the people she hung out with, and many of them happen to be stars we were used to seeing on hit television shows and blockbuster movies. Seen at their unfiltered best and most at-ease worst, Frye isn’t out to shame anyone for their actions from years ago (mostly, more on that later) but more to just document what life was like off set when the professional cameras weren’t rolling.
What struck me most was the lack of female friends Frye has throughout the years. While we see several during the course of the movie, Frye mostly hung around with guys and a number of the films divergent themes cover her romances that either soured or faded. In the final act, she bravely recounts for the first time on camera an act of sexual violence toward her at an early age and the impact that had on her relationships for the ensuing years. There’s also closure to be found in brief passages with some exes and hoped for loves that doesn’t feel stagey or forced in any way. More often than not, it feels as if everyone is happy to be walking down memory lane with a friendly companion, one that knows the pitfalls and won’t let them be hurt or led onto dangerous ground.
Once Frye gets to the segment showing just how many of these teen and young adults she knew and captured in her video memories didn’t live to see their thirtieth birthday, the sweetness of the nostalgia turns to sadness. What a shame that for whatever reason they didn’t make it and it’s no good now relitigating who is to blame because decades have passed. That seems to be Frye’s take on the situation as well and where she finds herself as Punky Brewster begins a revival on television. In the end, Kid 90 feels like a brisk, tightly edited way to put a few of the demons that have been circling her to rest, giving her control of the narrative as is her right, while at the same time honoring a generation that grew up in the public eye.