Thursday, 30 August 2018

NZIFF 2018 Diary: Skate Kitchen

Starring the real-life group, Skate Kitchen dramatises the introduction of a new member (played by Rachelle Vinberg).

Camille is a lonely teen who is obsessed with skateboarding, much to the disapproval of her mother (Elisabeth Rodriguez). When she stumbles upon the titular crew, she believes she has found a community to be a part of.

One of the recurring themes of a lot of the movies I gravitate towards involve friendship and community between women. Maybe it is the result of being raised by a single mother, the lack of movies involving women/femmes where they are not playing heterosexual love interests, or maybe I just need to join a book club.

Whatever the reason, it is one of my favourite story hooks.

I have no knowledge of - or interest in - skating, but there was something about the premise for this movie that pulled me in. There is something so intriguing about a group dynamic.

Whether it is a movie about a sports team, a group of friends, soldiers or anthropomorphised toys, there is something incredibly satisfying about following a group of characters with a shared sense of identity.

With a non-professional cast made up of a real-life group of skaters, Skate Kitchen is a movie that foregrounds a real group dynamic. Captured in handheld style that evokes documentary, there is a scrappy run-and-gun quality to the photography that captures the youthful fixation on moments ala the Instagram videos the skaters use to memorialise each other's feats.

Some of the performers are a little flat, but as an ensemble, they have an energy and sense of family and community that is infectious. The way they talk, the way they think, and the way they joke is so organic and unpredictable that - by contrast - the professional cast (Elisabeth Rodriguez and Jaden Smith) come off as weirdly fraudulent.

I don't think Jaden Smith is the worst actor in the world, and maybe he just needs to find better parts, but he feels really out of place here. He is meant to be a lothario, an attractive male presence who draws Camille away from the crew, but Smith never projects any of the allure that makes the character such a threat to the group.

He is really the only bum note in the movie. The real draw is the dynamic among the crew, as they ride around New York City, hang out, make jokes, get in fights and come back together. There is a sense of love and community to their scenes which cannot be faked. I watched this movie very late on no sleep and I was completely riveted. Every time he appears, the movie's unique energy dissipates.

There is not really a plot, and it really is not necessary. The focus of the film is this group of young people, and the world they have created for themselves.



The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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