Coming of Age and Self-Discovery in ‘Skate Kitchen’

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Published September 26, 2018
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The Montclarion
Rachelle Vinberg (far left) and other cast members pose as skaters from "Skate Kitchen." Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

On her 18th birthday, Camille, played by Rachelle Vinberg, blows out the candles on her cake with her mother standing behind her. The smoke filters around her face and the wish she grants can be seen through her eyes. Unbeknownst to her mother, Camille is going through a transition of discovering herself during the vibrant summer when “Skate Kitchen” takes place. Hiding her skateboard at night in her suburban Long Island home, during the day she sneaks onto the train to New York City with a community of female skaters. “Skate Kitchen” centers around her journey of escaping her daily routine and finding herself through an adolescent skate crew.

The director of “Skate Kitchen,” Crystal Moselle, met the female skaters in the film by chance, bumping into them on the Lower East Side. Much of the film is built around and inspired by Vinberg’s own young adulthood, which informed the story and the character. Viewers see Camille’s complicated relationship with her mother, played by Elizabeth Rodriguez, who forbids her daughter from skating at the beginning of the film after a serious injury. Their relationship, and Camille’s refusal to live through the conventional lens of what her mother wants for her, drives much of the conflict of the story. This factor creates a rich portrait of the late teen desire to become a person owned by personal desire and not the desires of others.

“Skate Kitchen” is framed through Camille’s point of view, so the audience sees the world of this Instagram generation of skaters through her eyes. She finds them online at first, eventually traveling to admire and then join them in the city. It’s apparent how innocent and inexperienced she is when compared to the rest of the girls. She watches them talk openly and frankly about love and life, not being able to relate but always feeling curious about these experiences she has not yet had.

This narrative of self-discovery is compelling, as viewers follow a character who is literally discovering a new world and adapting to a new friend group – or maybe even first friend group. The film does a great job with its cinematography, capturing the youthful breeziness of the characters as they traverse through the city. The camera acts like a fly on a wall, knowing exactly when to pull away and when to come close to capture the nuances of specific performances.

Jaden Smith and Rachelle Vinberg in Skate Kitchen.jpg

Jaden Smith and Rachelle Vinberg star in “Skate Kitchen.”
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The film’s natural acting is informed by the real life friendships between the female skaters. They coast through the city feeling the wind and the freedom of belonging in a cohesive family, which is an aspect of life lonely Camille cherishes throughout the film. At first, she is only glancing at these girls from afar, but slowly she makes her way into their group.

“Skate Kitchen,” while having an internal pulse that keeps the viewer gripped, might feel too slow for casual moviegoers. Not much action happens and it’s more of a personal journey than a fast-paced editing extravaganza many are accustomed to with the sensibilities of modern films. However, for the patient viewer, this film can be very rewarding, capturing a personal experience that can feel especially relatable to college students, as one trudges through first love and living on one’s own, unseen by the view of a parental lens for the first time.

“Skate Kitchen” is a light and compelling watch that does an incredible job of chronicling, without judgement, the lives of the female skaters at its center.

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