The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - SKATE KITCHEN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - SKATE KITCHEN

skate kitchen review
A teenage girl is befriended by a gang of skateboarders.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Crystal Moselle

Starring: Rachelle Vinberg, Kabrina Adams, Jules Lorenzo, Jaden Smith, Elizabeth Rodriguez

skate kitchen poster

For the skateboarder, the entire physical world presents a challenge. What provides access and safety in urban vicinities (handrails, disabled ramps, kerbs) conversely become obstacles for the skater, impediments to be manoeuvred via hard won tricks and a middle finger to convention. When you’re a skateboarder, the very environment is conflict. With such a ready-made cinematic metaphor for adolescence, and given the sport’s spectacular nature, you might imagine that there would be more skateboards knocking about in the coming-of-age movie, instead of the meagre and tokenistic appropriations that we see in Back to the Future (where Marty just used his board as a getaway vehicle), the cringe of Amazing Spider-Man or an '80s cash in like Police Academy 4. Notwithstanding a few notable exceptions like the Dogtown films, the reason why skateboarding, actual skateboarding, isn’t represented is because it’s really, really hard to get to the level appropriate for cinematic presentation, and the resilience, the practice and labour involved in reaching that peak would be really, really boring to watch (which is why the scene found its naturally niche media within underground/specialised videos directed by the likes of a vernal Spike Jonze). But it’s not boring to be a part of. Skateboarding is a subculture based upon mental and physical extremities, a meritocracy where skill and hard work are rewarded in props from your peers; where daring leads to feats that stretch and define our physical potential and blood and broken bones prefaces spiritual zen.

skate kitchen review

It's not for everybody is skateboarding. Which is why, in Crystal Moselle’s superlative Skate Kitchen, when lonely Camille (Rachelle Vinberg - amazing actor/skater) rocks up at a NY skate park and shuvits her stuff like she’s Mark Gonzales, it is little wonder that the girls who hang out there immediately befriend her, recognising her mad skills and kindred spirit. With apposite urgency, Skate Kitchen’s opening dialogue also outlays the vertiginous fail/fail better dynamics of skating: off camera some kids urge Camille to "go for it… do it," an enthusiasm which is supervened by Camille’s "fuckfuckfuck" as she falls and tears her groin on her board (an injury known as ‘credit-carding’ - look it up with crossed legs). The imagery of blood and thighs inaugurates Skate Kitchen’s leit motif of menstruation, which locates the film’s themes and subject within a specifically female experience. What follows is an ambient narrative about friendship, growing up and alley-ooping.

skate kitchen review

With its freewheeling depiction of real-life Manhattan streets and its seasoned cast traversing its packed sidewalks, Skate Kitchen is verité at its most varial: the scenes of intricate tricks and tableaus of the girls seeming to float as they skim rough asphalt are breath-taking. And these girls are just so fucking cool and likeable and convincing. Not since The Monster Squad have I wanted to be part of a cinematic gang so much, watching in nostalgic envy as the group negotiates the double edged pleasures of block parties, proper NY weed and group sex for the first time, the intensity of the subculture depicted with the same colourful vivacity as the skating scenes.

With its representation of skateboarding as a way of life, Skate Kitchen gets the prefix part of its title spot on. But how does it fare as, you know, a film? Well, dramatic conflict is provided by Camille’s mother, who, for some sketchy reason, doesn’t want her daughter skateboarding, etc. An unconvincingly melodramatic plot point, mom’s approbation exists simply because a film can’t all be hanging out with girls talking about their periods and winding up the grownups, dramatic conflict is also necessary; and so Camille falling out with her mother leads to her moving in with pal Eliza (Jules Lorenzo), and causally brings the narrative to an awkward love triangle involving photographer Devon (Jaden Smith, a lad who would know a thing or two about skateboarding, seeing as his supposed real life paramour is pop culture’s most visible proponent of the sport; Tyler, The Creator).

skate kitchen review

At times - with an unfortunate drug fade out, the inevitable injuries, and the potential for dodgy shags - I was worried that Skate Kitchen was going to bomb a hill right into after-school special territory. Concerned because youth isn’t always a learning curve marked by clumsily manufactured plot points, and instead is an exhilarating experience of freedom and friendship and foolishness which has little to no adult equivalent. Moselle’s girls are too cool for such narrative bail outs though (at one point, a gay member of the crew has a pop at flaky boys but is careful to check herself and say "not every boy": lovely), and instead ordinary excitements are made riveting by the natural chemistry of the cast and Moselle’s laidback story telling style. A wonderful film that deserves its unavoidable future cult status: Skate Kitchen shreds.

Skate Kitchen is on US DVD, blu-ray and VOD now, with a UK release on January 21st, 2019.

2018 movie reviews