The skateboard as the main prop will sometimes raise a positive eyebrow. Larry Clarke’s 1996 film ‘Kids’ definitely introduced skateboarders into the pop indie culture, showing us the skateboarding kid’s community. ‘Skate Kitchen’ could possibly be influenced by the controversial ‘Kids’ due to the themes of adolescence, sex, drugs, and skateboarding. Let us not forget about a very forgotten and underrated 1989 Christian Slater film called ‘Gleaming the Cube.’ The skateboard stunts and tricks are so flawless that it makes our youth want to pick up a skateboard and skate till our knees drop. The question lies within. Do the aforementioned films bring the skateboarding theme something new to the table? It tries to but sadly fails. Most film lovers appreciate an art house independent film, especially when the premise involves teenagers in New York getting up to mischief on their skateboards. Sadly ‘Skate Kitchen’ doesn’t entertain as most viewers will find it hard to love our leading lady Rachelle Vinberg who plays Camille.
Camille’s life as a lonely suburban teenager changes dramatically when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self. The fact that she falls in with the in-crowd has a falling-out with her mother and falls for a mysterious skateboarder guy (Jaden Smith), but a relationship with him proves to be trickier to navigate than a kickflip.
We’ve seen this all before. In child speak: Loner girl eventually blends in with the cool crowd. She starts a relationship with a boy that causes friction then is rejected by her girl gang. How will she get back with the crowd? Who must she choose? The boyfriend who is unwelcome in her posse or her girl gang? We see Camille with a skateboard at least 90% of the time. This will eventually get tedious. Her tricks and flips are good, but cliché. ‘Gleaming the Cube’ had better tricks and Marty McFly skateboards better by a mile. Our newcomer leading lady Vinberg comes across as bland. Her eyeglasses are annoying and in films like these, it is customary to take the glasses off a quarter through the film in order to fit in with the crowd. E.G. ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ Rocky,’ ‘She’s all that.’ The fact that Camille barely takes off her glasses makes it hard for the audience to appreciate her as she remains hidden and can’t empathise with her as much as we’d like to.
It is apparent that director Crystal Moselle has selected naturalistic actors from the skateboarding community. This is one of the true merits of the film as the supporting actors are raw and real. On the other hand, for Jaden Smith to come onboard a film like this, the director should feel blessed for Smith to play the love interest of Camille. He shows a sensitive, protective side to his character. Smith is professional and puts his extremely famous ‘Karate Kid’ role aside and is not afraid to step down and let others actors lead the way. One would assume offset, these skateboarding kids would ask so many questions to Jaden about his famous father and his upbringing. Nonetheless, it’s admirable to see a completely different side to how he usually performs.
Unfortunately, ‘Skate Kitchen’ is slow and dragging. The plot is too basic and needs more twists, catchy dialogue and better pace. The skateboard is more of the main character rather than the actors that skate on it. In other words, the skateboard controls the film and is not enough to captivate an audience. Perhaps it needed a more in your face retelling of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ where the Montague’s and Capulet’s are two skateboarding gangs. There is an R & J sort of theme present, but only 1/3 of it comes out. The film needs to be more dramatic which is what sadly lacks in this great potential of a premise.
Aly Lalji | [rating=2]
Drama | USA, 2018 | 15 | 28th September 2018 (UK) | Modern Films | Dir.Crystal Moselle | Jaden Smith, Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams