Skate Kitchen (2018) Film Review
Teenagers think they’re invincible, but skating fucking hurts. Camille (newcomer Rachelle Vinberg in a properly remarkable acting debut) becomes intimately acquainted with that pain in the opening scenes of Skate Kitchen, as a botched trick at her local Long Island skatepark results in an emergency trip to the gynaecologist. Her mother (Orange is the New Black‘s Elizabeth Rodriguez) forbids her from picking her board back up. She does not listen, running away from home to join the eponymous all-girl skater collective.
The first fiction feature from The Wolfpack director Crystal Moselle does not follow the expected coming-of-age narrative. It certainly gestures at plot turns familiar from Whip It, Lady Bird, even Footloose: finding acceptance in a subculture or hobby parents disapprove of, before eventually convincing them that said subculture or hobby is good, actually. It does not follow that narrative thread in a clear or particularly hurried fashion, instead hitching itself to naturalism in both its performances and the way the characters relationships (especially those fuelled by hormones) are authentically messy, with boundaries tested and occasionally crossed, mistakes made, loose ends left untied.
Shot by Shabier Kirchner in a similarly dreamy, floaty vérité style to recent Malick, Skate Kitchen has the loosey-goosey feel of a summer spent shooting the shit with friends, getting high and skating. Perhaps owing to this being Moselle’s first fiction film, albeit one which draws on the experiences of its cast, there are story developments and dialogue scenes which can feel inelegant. If you were feeling charitable, the inarticulacy and clunkiness could be excused as another element of “realism” from its young cast. Overall though this is an admirably big-hearted film, one which provides a compelling snapshot of street level New York and how its adolescent occupants open themselves up to some gnarly emotional injuries, but also some transcendent highs. Like Larry Clark’s Kids with kickflips.