Review: Skate Kitchen

Rachelle Vinberg in Skate Kitchen

Skate Kitchen is unlike any film about young women you’ve ever seen. It tells the coming of age story of a Long Island teen who finds a surrogate family in a group of skateboarders.

Rachelle Vinberg stars as Camille. In her big owl-sized glasses and her preppy outfits, she looks like anything but a skater. But skate she does, and very well.

As the story opens, Camille gets hurt skating. She promises her mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez, one of the few professional actors in this movie) she’ll quit skating. Instead she finds her way into New York City where a group of girl skaters immediately accept her as one of their own.

It’s summertime and Camille turns 18. When her mom discovers she’s skating again, there’s a blowup. Camille moves into the bedroom of one of her skater girlfriends. She finds a job to support herself.

Rachelle Vinberg and others skating in Skate Kitchen

Rachelle Vinberg and her friends skating down the street in Skate Kitchen

The kids in the film are real. Everything they do on those skateboards is really them doing it. The only person who needed a stunt skating double was Jaden Smith who played Devon.

Camille was a babe in the woods compared to these city kids. They talked openly about sex, shared drugs, shared sex, slept in communal spaces and lived to skate. When they weren’t skating, they were watching the films they made of themselves skating.

Everything was new to Camille, especially her feelings for Devon.

Jaden Smith and Rachelle Vinberg in Skate Kitchen

Devon had a past history with Janay (Ardelia Lovelace), the girl who was letting Camille crash at her house. That led to some conflict and upset, but it was all part of Camille’s coming of age experience. She was a very different girl when the film ended.

The remarkable way the camera follows the skaters in skate parks, down city streets, through traffic, in parks, and across bridges was astonishing to me. Was the camera person on a skateboard as well? Images of their achievements were a big part of the culture of skating for this group of kids. Several did everything with a camera in hand.

Director Crystal Moselle got the idea for the film when she saw some of the young women featured in the film skating. Some of those young people are Nina Moran, Jules Lorenzo, Ajani Russell, and Brenn Lorenzo. Skate Kitchen is a mix of fiction and documentary. It’s an eye opening look into an American subculture that exists right in the middle of traffic.

You can watch the film on Hulu, Amazon Video, and other streaming services. There’s an interesting interview on NPR with the director about the film.

Have you seen Skate Kitchen? What did you think of the film?

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