Skate Kitchen review by Katie Hogan
Writer/director Crystal Moselle caught everyone’s attention with The Wolfpack, but with Skate Kitchen, she’s decided to try the fiction side of the film spectrum. Combining her keen eye for amazingly beautiful shots and the simplistic realistic dialogue, she creates a story, a film that seems effortless. It might be the many shots of the skaters freely skating through New York City, parks and trying tricks anywhere they possibly can, the summer setting makes it like it’s just a dream, but the characters deal with their own private and public issues. Nothing overbears the other, giving the film a perfect balance and you’re glued to the screen.
Refreshingly the story about lonely suburban teen skater Camille, is not set in high school or college. She is 18 years old, a fact that briefly comes up and never again, and likes to skate. She tries doing tricks in her local park where the boys of the neighbourhood outnumber her, but when she has a disturbingly painful accident (referred to credit carding later in the film) her mum forbids her from skating. But as this is who Camille is, she finds ways to sneak her board out of the house and over to the city to meet the Skate Kitchen crew who she follows on Instagram. A group of female skaters who film videos of their skating days around the skate parks in the city. Camille is gently initiated into the group who admires her talent and eventually embraces as a close friend. Camille is no longer lonely, she has found her tribe but at the cost of breaking her fragile bond with her mum.
The film both echoes documentary style filming and also feels nonlinear in its telling. The base line for the ‘plot’ is outsider finds her group, her standing in said group develop until she shatters their trust and she is exile but hope remains in the last sequence of the film. No spoilers here, this is the beauty of the story, its ongoing. As the girls skate together around the city, sometimes in slow motion, you feel how close they are as a group and as friends. Nothing feels forced, they all come across as, dare I say it, genuine. This is probably the documentary style coming through. The close ups and hand held shots of the girls’ faces when they are in pain or in ecstasy don’t seem intrusive, yet Crystal Moselle captures some very personal moments. The only time the film feels more conventional is when Devon, played by Jared Smith, becomes more prominent. At first it’s a distraction away from the solid female friendship, but soon Camille is skating with the guys. She’s a tomboy and fits right with the guys, helping them get out of trouble whilst taking on daring acts herself, she is accepted. But when you play well with girls and boys, being accepted by both comes a double-edged sword.
What might frustrate some and inspire others, the film doesn’t delve deep into characters’ feelings and emotions, there are scenes where truths are shared but everything else is played out through skating. The emotions of all the skaters can be captured in the parks, in the streets, even when the group is just sitting watching the sun go down. There is a genuine friendship that builds and ultimately stands the test of whether it is true or not. No words are spoken towards the end, just a text followed by a seamless shot at dusk, and it’s perfect.