Most films about skating tend to not be very good, and it’s almost impossible to see an accurate portrayal of skate life up on the silver screen. Lords of Dogtown and Kids are the few rare exceptions, but their release dates are almost a decade apart. As we barrel our way through the 2000s, it’s time for another movie to take up the mantel for this new generation of cinema; and that film may be Skate Kitchen.
Skateboarding is all about progression; finding new and innovative ways to push the sport. However the skate scene is still plagued by a boys-club mentality and films about skating tend to completely shut out the female perspective. This is where Skate Kitchen is different. It tells the story of Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a girl who only truly feels at home when she’s got her feet firmly planted on the sparkling black grip of a skateboard. After a botched trick sends her to the emergency room, Camille’s mother forbids her to ever get on a board again. Things get complicated when Camille sneaks out with her board and falls in with a group of mischievous park rats.
Skate Kitchen is an absolutely fascinating dissection of the gender dynamics that exist in skateboarding. Women tend to be marginalized in skating and they are always locked in a never-ending struggle to prove their worth to male counterparts. It is something that Camille herself has to deal with throughout the film as she is bullied and even ridiculed by men who perhaps feel threatened by a female presence in the skatepark. It is a wonderful commentary on the clique mentality that exists in the world of skateboarding.
For those who have never skated before, Skate Kitchen does a fantastic job of accurately depicting the microcosm that is the modern skate scene. It also captures a lot of moments that will undoubtedly be familiar to most skaters: The feeling when all your friends are out skating, but you’re at home helpless because you rolled your ankle; the frustration of failure; and the adrenaline rush of getting into heated confrontations with security guards who take their jobs a bit too seriously. Writer/director Crystal Moselle immersed herself in skate culture in order to do research for this film, and it really shows up in the final product. The fact that most of the actors are doing their own stunts also helps add a more realistic element to the film.
Though the acting at times can seem a little rough around the edges, it isn’t without it’s fair share of good performances. Lead actor, Rachelle Vinberg’s performance is full of attitude and charisma and does a good job of keeping the audience invested. The film also features a surprisingly subtle yet likable performance by Jaden Smith. If you’re paying real close attention, you’ll even spot a quick guest appearance by pro skater and street legend, Rodrigo Teixeira.
As far as skate films go, Skate Kitchen is not only one of the best skateboarding films of all time; it’s mandatory viewing. It’s a fascinating peephole into the wild world of the skate scene that is sure to please audience regardless of their familiarity with the subject. With two Sundance hits under her belt (Skate Kitchen and The Wolfpack) Crystal Moselle has also proved that she is going to be a Sundance mainstay for years to come.