Skate Kitchen a unique view into the world of youth skateboarding
As drowsy and aimless as a latesummer sunny afternoon, Skate Kitchen delivers a near-perfect portrayal of rootless, hormonal youth.
Camille (Rachelle Vinberg, one of several standout first-time actors) is skateboarding in her local park in Long Island when a misstep causes a nasty injury. Her mom (Elizabeth Rodriguez) forbids her from going back, but you know how it is when you have a passion, especially in the movies. Before long, Camille has found a new haunt in Manhattan, where she quickly bonds with a group of like-minded young women.
Moselle made a splash in 2015 with the documentary The Wolfpack, about a group of movieobsessed brothers who grew up barely leaving their Manhattan apartment.
Skate Kitchen also has documentary beginnings: Moselle met a group of skateboarding young women who call themselves The Skate Kitchen, and in 2016 made a fun short with them called That One Day that you can find on Vimeo.
Not much happens in this beefed-up version of That One Day, which maintains the doc vibe. Camille befriends the multi-racial group that includes Janay (Ardelia Lovelace) and Kurt (Nina Moran, who looks like a young Samantha Bee), and they get up to some pretty harmless hijinks with their boards. When her mom tracks her down at the new skateboard park, Camille decides to move out, crashing with Janay and her super-cool dad and finding a job in a grocery store.
This is where she meets Devon, an aspiring photographer played by Jaden Smith, easily the biggest name in the film but nicely underplaying the part.
She can’t figure out whether he merely likes her or, you know, LIKES her, and we watch that confusion play out in
heartbreaking real time on her bespectacled face.
The film also has a great girl-power vibe, with the boys mostly occupying the fringes of the frame in the way that female characters usually do. If Skate Kitchen fails the reverse-bechdel test, I’m OK with that. Camille and her new pals do jumps on their boards and shoot the breeze about everything from tampons to the Mandela effect.
The latter is an alternateuniverse conspiracy theory that wonders where the Monopoly Man’s monocle went and works much better with weed (apparently).
As a parent, I spent a good portion of the movie wondering why Camille was so mean to her mom, and worrying that children will copy her trick of texting the old lady old photos to “prove” she’s at the library.
But some heartfelt dialogue later in the film provides a partial explanation, while the rest of it can be chalked up to “kids can be like that sometimes.”
That actually sums up the plot of Skate Kitchen nicely. Sometimes, all you need to spark a lasting friendship are an aluminum board and four polyurethane wheels.
Juliette Binoche’s sexual odyssey in Let the Sunshine In is thoughtful and sophisticated in its candid approach to life and the search for love in middle age.