Written, directed, and co-produced by Mikey Alfred, North Hollywood is a coming-of-age drama, about a high school graduate called Michael, who dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder. The movie – which is currently streaming on NOW/Sky Movies in the UK – stars Ryder McLaughlin, Vince Vaughn, and Miranda Cosgrove, and follows Michael’s first few steps as he sets out to pursue this career.
In the movie, Michael lives with his father, Oliver in North Hollywood. Oliver is a construction worker, who wants the best for his son, but the two don’t quite see eye-to-eye.
What doesn’t help is that Michael is at a crossroads in his life – his time at school has come to an end, he has ‘aged out’ of his role as an altar boy at the local church, and he has lost interest in being part of the water polo team. The structure he previously had in his life has now slipped away, and he needs to decide what to do next.
All Michael really wants to do is skate, but Oliver wants his son to go to college, get a good education, and a well-paying job. However, no matter what Oliver says, skating is all Michael can focus on and it becomes his main interest.
Over the course of the story, Michael attempts to make his dream become a reality, whatever way he can. But becoming a professional skater takes more than just practicing, and as everyone keeps telling him, he needs to work hard to make things happen.
Cast your mind back to your younger years, and to more specifically that time in your life when you had just left school. It was a point in time when everyone wanted to know what you were going to do next, and were often happy to voice their own opinions on the subject.
But you had just spent over a decade following a fairly rigid schedule, which involved education, seeing friends and hanging out, and while you had coped with that just fine, you had not really thought beyond this. Yet all of a sudden, your weekly routine was now over and everyone expected you to have a plan for the rest of your life, and a plan which would secure a stable income.
Did you have ideas about what you might do next? Sure! But was this plan fool-proof and a guaranteed route to success? Not really.
And this is essentially what North Hollywood is all about. It is a film which takes a look at a very specific point in a young person’s life, when suddenly everything becomes a bit more complex and important decisions need to be made.
The film is told through the eyes of a teenager, who has dreams and aspirations and a potential end goal in sight, but not necessarily the backing to make it all happen. The story looks at the journey he takes, and the lessons he learns, as he spends the summer transitioning into the next stage of his life.
In terms of the movie’s appeal, I’ll say this now, I don’t think North Hollywood is for everyone, but it is a good picture. The movie knows the story it wants to tell and is backed by strong direction and a solid cast.
The reason I say I don’t believe this movie is for everyone is because once you get past the general premise of the movie, it doesn’t really go anywhere else. The film is very much about this one thing, and that means there are no huge surprises or standout scenes along the way.
What is presented, is presented well, but the entire film plays on one level and if it doesn’t grab you within the first 15 minutes, I doubt this will change during the remainder of the movie’s run-time. However, I do think this is largely an age thing, and for a teen audience, it tells a story which many will find relatable.
As I’ve previously stated, both the direction and the cast are on fine form. The pairing of Ryder McLaughlin and Vince Vaughn, as Michael and Oliver respectively, is a good combination.
McLaughlin perfectly embodies what it is like to be a teen, while Vaughn plays the no-nonsense father figure effortlessly. Watching the two actors interact feels very much like watching a real father and son getting into some important conversations.
While the two characters don’t always agree, there is a certainly level of respect between the pair, which is good to see. This film is very much about growth and change, and this message is conveyed very well, through both the characters, and through the actors.
I don’t believe North Hollywood is for me, but this is because I am now of an age where I want something else from my movies, however, this is decent stuff. Writer/director Mikey Alfred has delivered something which lands just right, and for right audience (i.e. the teen crowd), North Hollywood offers a relatable story.
It is a story which is brought to the screen with care and attention and for this I can’t fault it. So, yeah, it’s good, and I expect it will find the audience it is aiming for.
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