'Skate Kitchen' Review: NYC Skater Culture Through a Different Lens

Directed by Crystal Moselle

Starring Rachelle Vinberg, Kabrina Adams and Jaden Smith

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

BY Josiah HughesPublished Aug 15, 2018

One can't help but wonder what Crystal Moselle's daily commute must be like — it seems like she's perpetually crossing paths with colourful characters and making movies about them. Following her exquisite 2015 documentary The Wolfpack, Moselle has happened upon another fascinating group of New Yorkers.
This time around, Moselle has made a feature film with a girl gang of skateboarding teens she met on the subway. Rather than create a documentary of their lives, however, she opted to write a narrative feature in collaboration with the girls. In the process, Moselle has officially established herself as a filmic force to be reckoned with.
First-time actor and unstoppable shredder Rachelle Vinberg stars as Camille, a teenage tomboy who's struggling to get along with her single mother in Long Island. Camille escapes the torment of her home life, falling in with a wily gang of mostly female skateboarders in the Lower East Side.
The group of teens bond over skate tricks, parties and general mischief-making, forming a seemingly unbreakable sisterhood in the process. Their friendship is threatened, however, when Camille starts spending a little too much time with a skater from a rival gang (Jaden Smith).
Everything about Skate Kitchen is decidedly contemporary, from its outfits to its sexual politics to its dialogue. (Did you know that kids say "valid" instead of "cool" now?) That said, whether it's a symptom of the times or the cyclical nature of skate trends, the film also feels decidedly '90s.
In fact, multiple shots from Skate Kitchen are cribbed directly from Larry Clark's Kids, as hip teens in oversized Supreme shirts crowd around TVs to watch skate videos and teen girls have candid discussions about their sexuality in bedroom chats.
While Kids was aesthetically influential, however, it centred on the corrosive and damaging nature of the male psyche. Skate Kitchen feels like a much-needed revision. It looks similar, all hip streetwear and truly impressive New York skating, but it replaces Kids' potentially toxic social message with a joyful and ultimate uplifting look at the transformative power of friendship.
(Bow and Arrow)

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