Skate Kitchen: come for neorealism, stay for sick flips

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Skate Kitchen
Broadway Theatre

Opens Tuesday 4
3 out of 5

Forget those glossy dystopias studios force on younger audiences. American indies are going directly to the source to portray adolescents. The year’s best teen movies  are all low on budget, but high on grit and authenticity (Eighth Grade, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Beach Rats). Skate Kitchen goes even further in the pursuit of realism. Director Crystal Moselle (responsible for the terrific doc The Wolfpack) found a group of non-actors skilled at skateboarding and built a movie around them.

The film resembles an anthropological study so there isn’t much of a plot. Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) has a troubled relationship with her mother, who doesn’t approve of her daughter’s need for speed (the mom also subscribes to Doug Ford’s sex-ed model: the less you know, the better). Fed up, Camille makes the journey from Long Island to New York and she befriends like-minded girls at the skateboarding park that gives the movie its title.

Most of Skate Kitchen follows Camille shredding at the skatepark with her girlfriends. She starts the film as a cypher and by the end lets her freak flag fly. In between, her social inexperience becomes evident when she lets a boy cause a rift between her and her posse.

While the teens don’t seem the planning kind, they’re far more self-sufficient than adults give them credit for (a message that applies to many people’s perception of millennials). Skate Kitchen is the rare movie in which leaving home is a smart choice.

There is a ringer in Skate Kitchen: Jaden Smith, son of Will and star of the infamous After Earth. Freed from the need to perform, Smith is effortlessly cool and becomes the hardest character to figure out of the bunch. The rest, they all live in the moment — for better or for worse.