Skate Kitchen

 

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A captivating study of skateboarders that nevertheless lacks a strong enough plot.

 
Skate Kitchen
 

The title of Crystal Moselle's film is the name adopted by a group of girls who as older teenagers regularly go skateboarding on New York's Lower East Side. For them this sporting activity, which also involves posting images on Instagram, is almost a way of life and, when Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) travels in from Long Island, she is soon delighted to be accepted as a member of Skate Kitchen.

 

Moselle first made an impact with her documentary The Wolfpack (2015) and in point of fact the girls of Skate Kitchen are not actresses as such but real skateboarders who, with enormous conviction, act out roles close to their actual selves. Indeed, if Skate Kitchen functions on two levels, one of them (and it is really the more significant one) consists of presenting a film of strong atmosphere (the colour photography is by Shabier Kirchner) which is locked in to the world of these youngsters, We see too a number of male skateboarders including Devon (Jaden Smith), but the main emphasis is on the friendship of the girls and the film that Skate Kitchen brings to mind is CĂ©line Sciamma's Girlhood (2014).

 

The camaraderie of the girls and the exhilaration of skateboarding despite its dangers (which are not ignored in this portrayal) are admirably conveyed, the sense of reality stemming from the naturalism of the dialogue and the setting and from the emotional appeal of the group's activities being expressed so well through the music track including songs. As for the second level of the film, that fits in convincingly enough since it concerns the coming-of-age of Camille who is eighteen and living with her mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez), loving but also inhibiting as her daughter seeks to find her own way in life. This central role is admirably played by Rachelle Vinberg who totally avoids any grandstanding and it is quite natural that the sexually inexperienced Camille should be affected by the relationships both gay and straight that she observes on joining Skate Kitchen.

 

As the film develops, Skate Kitchen finds a plot of sorts in the attraction that Camille comes to feel for Devon and the jealousy which that arouses in one of the group, Janay (Dede Lovelace), who had seen herself as Devon's girl. However, as plots go, this one is rather slight (not least when compared with what Girlhood offered) and Moselle unwisely lets her film run for 106 minutes. Consequently, what starts out as enticingly real and not reliant on a plot to engage us becomes in time an over-extended piece that suffers from the plot element being the kind of thing that in book form would furnish a short story rather than a novel. Skate Kitchen at its best has real distinction and freshness, but as a whole it lacks the wherewithal to emerge as a truly satisfying full-length feature.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Nina Moran, Kabrina Adams, Ajani Russell, Jules Lorenzo, Brenn Lorenzo, Hisham Tawfiq, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jaden Smith.

 

Dir Crystal Moselle, Pro Lizzie Nastro, Izabella Tzenkova, Crystal Moselle, Julia Nottingham, Rodrigo Teixeira and Michael Sherman, Screenplay Aslihan Unaldi, Crystal Moselle and Jennifer Silverman, from Crystal Moselle's story, Ph Shabier Kirchner, Pro Des Fletcher Chancey, Ed Nico Leunen, Music Aska Matsumiya, Costumes Camille Garmendia.

 

Bow and Arrow Entertainment/RT Features/Pulse Films/Kotva Films-Modern Films.
106 mins. USA/Brazil/UK. 2017. Rel: 28 September 2018. Cert. 15.