Critics' Pick

Skate Kitchen (R)

Drama 100 min. August 10, 2018
By Alan Scherstuhl
Crystal Moselle's wildly fascinating observe-and-report coming-of-age drama Skate Kitchen opens with teen skater Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) doing flip tricks by herself at the park. Two little boys eye her, kids at least 7 years her junior, and yet they've already been primed to be intimidating and belittling to girls entering their spaces. A lonely Long Island teen, Camille scrolls through the Instagram profiles of a group of girl NYC skaters called Skate Kitchen, faving all their videos, escaping in her imagination to a place where she's not the only young woman kick-flipping on the concrete. Eventually, she just maps out the long train ride to where the girls skate and tags along, observing them with interest, as though she's studying the nature of girlhood friendships.

Moselle seems to be actually listening to her actors, struggling to understand their perspective without projecting lazy judgments on them. In Skate Kitchen, the kids come as they are, and they're wildly fascinating. Among the group of skaters Camille befriends is queer comic relief Kurt (Nina Moran), whose first lines are tall-tale boasts about getting fingered in a bush. As the gang sits around, smoking weed and shooting the shit, Kurt waxes poetic on the theory that humanity is currently living in a simulation. She goes hard to convince her friends she speaks the truth, and she shrugs it off when they poke fun at her stoner monologue. There are no hurt feelings or sulking, just good-natured ribbing, something all too rare between girls in the movies. We see that same emotional flexibility when the girls are biting it at the skate park, too; they fall, they get back up and life goes on.
Crystal Moselle, Aslihan Unaldi, and Jen Silverman Jaden Smith, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Taylor Gray, Darlene Violette, Rachelle Vinberg Crystal Moselle Magnolia Pictures

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