tue 16/10/2018

Skate Kitchen review - sisterhood in the skate park | reviews, news & interviews

Skate Kitchen review - sisterhood in the skate park

Skate Kitchen review - sisterhood in the skate park

Following female skateboarders in NYC, Crystal Moselle's new film is almost a documentary

Not in the kitchen but partying: from left, Rachelle Vinberg (Camille), Ajani Russell (Indigo), Nina Moran (Kurt), Dede Lovelace (Janay), Alexander Cooper (Charlie)

“Let’s get a clip, Long Island.” One New York skateboarder encourages another, who’s from the ‘burbs, to show off ollies, pop shuvits and kick-flips for a YouTube video. But hang on: “There are too many penises in the way.” This is a posse of young women, a rare sighting in the male world of the skate park.

Crystal Moselle’s first feature film (her extraordinary 2015 documentary The Wolfpack, about some Lower East Side siblings whose father closeted them in the family apartment for years, is a hard act to follow) homes in on eight teenage girls who bond through skateboarding. Very different from the Wolfpack boys, they roam the city with enormous style - Instagram-ready glamour rather than grunge – and when they take off through the New York streets, discarding male taunts, hanging on to the backs of trucks and evading security guards as they go, the film really flies. At other times, there’s a somewhat stilted, play-it-by-numbers air to the direction but still, Skate Kitchen casts a powerfully feminist urban spell.

The film has a semi-documentary feel and might have ended up as one, had not Moselle been encouraged by a programmer at Sundance to turn a short narrative film she’d made about the girls for a Miu Miu fashion campaign into a feature. They’re part of a real skate collective, Skate Kitchen, so-called because some troll posted “She belongs in the kitchen” on a YouTube video of a girl skater.

Moselle spotted two of them, Nina Moran and Rachelle Vinberg, on the G train in Brooklyn. She immersed herself in their lives for a year, sharing her house with them and their friends, taking notes of their conversations and creating a script. They play versions of themselves through fictional personae (and sometimes you wish Moselle had stuck to her Wolfpack MO), while Jaden Smith, a skater dude himself – he’d already linked up with Rachelle on Instagram - provides the love interest (Devon), though a low-key, remote one. With his small neat head of dyed red hair, he’s a melancholy, fragile presence (pictured below right with Rachelle Vinberg as Camille), always with his camera, taking shots of skaters.devon skate

Moran and Vinberg met through social media, commenting on each other’s clips and looking for female skate buddies. Both are impressive actors, with Vinberg shining as Camille, an introverted Long Island loner but a brilliant skater, apparently unhampered by waist-length hair and specs, who gets lost on the way to a Lower East Side skate park in spite of consulting her phone’s map app (always good to see). Her mom (Elizabeth Rodriguez, who starred in Orange is the New Black and Logan) is vehemently opposed to her daughter’s out-of-school activities. You can see why. When Camille lands hard on her board in the first scene she gets an awful crotch injury, known as credit-carding. Blood pours down her legs, boys at the skate park make nasty comments about periods, stitches are required. “Next time, maybe you can’t have children,” hisses her mom, who’s from Colombia.

Camille’s character is complex, both timid and bold. Soon after she links up with the LES female skater group (via Instagram, of course), she moves out to get away from her embarrassingly over-protective mother, who even turns up at the skate park one day, and in with the supportive Janay (a vibrant Dede Lovelace) whose dad is cool with a bunch of weed-smoking girls taking over his daughter’s bedroom. He makes them all lasagne while they lounge about discussing tampons – “Can’t they kill you?” asks Camille – and inspecting each other’s vaginas when one of them thinks hers looks gross. The verdict? “No, it’s valid.”

The way shy, naive Camille gets in with this diverse, pan-sexual crowd ("Do you like dick or pussy?" asks Moran as Kurt) seems a bit too seamless and easy, but maybe New York skater girls really are that open-spirited. And of course – this is a coming-of-age movie, after all - things do go wrong. Instead of supporting her friend Janay when she sprains her ankle and can’t skate – a fate worse than death - Camille turns selfish (maybe she always was) and starts hanging out with Devon who, it turns out, is Janay’s unlikely ex. Janay feels betrayed and Camille’s new friends turn on her. She moves in to Devon’s chaotic, messy, porn-watching skater household, but not for long. It’s a familiar trope – the shy girl gets uppity and engineers her own downfall. But although the plot-line is a bit contrived and insubstantial, and the ending is too neat and sunny, Vinberg’s slow, expressive presence has real power. The girls of Skate Kitchen let Moselle in on their world, and it’s a life-affirming, riveting one. If Moselle hadn't imposed a narrative on them, it could have been even more so.

When they take off through the New York streets, discarding male taunts, the film really flies

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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