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Skate Kitchen - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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steve98052
steve98052
Skate Kitchen
SIFF's capsule summary: "A suburban teenager discovers a newfound freedom when she meets a subculture of girl skateboarders on New York's Lower East Side in the newest from director Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack), a streetwise celebration with a cast populated by the real-life titular skaters and Jaden Smith as the love interest from a rival crew." (US, 2018, 105 minutes)
SIFF link: Skate Kitchen

Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) lives way out on Long Island, where her passion is skateboarding. She doesn't find her crowd at the local skate parks, but through the Internet gets to know a community of girls and young women like her in Manhattan through the Internet. She takes the train into the city, and joins their group, "Skate Kitchen". But her protective suburban mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is concerned about both the skateboarding and the trips to Manhattan.

Besides her mother's concerns, Camille's developing friendship with a co-worker (Jaden Smith) complicates her friendships with the Skate Kitchen girls. Will her friendship with the boy go anywhere? Will she be able to maintain her friendship with the Skate Kitchen girls?

7 Good The film's story was written by director Crystal Moselle, with additional writing credits for Jen Silverman and Aslihan Unaldi. It follows some of the elements of the romantic comedy formula, with a twist (see "spoilers" below if you're not spoiler sensitive, or have already seen it). The weak points in the script, as I see it, mostly revolve around the Jaden Smith character; I think the character was written into an existing script because he was a late addition to the cast, and as a better-known actor they needed to give him more than just a bit part. In spite of that fault, I rate the screenplay good.

The highlights of the film are the directing, which is excellent throughout (again, with the possible except of some of Smith's scenes) and the really well-shot skating scenes. The skating scenes are effective because although the skaters are good, they're not unrealistically perfect. They have wipe-outs, not just when they plot needs them to be injured or consoled, but because they're learning new stunts. The skating scenes captured my interest, even though I normally wouldn't care about them.

The acting was not good, but it felt like most of the cast were chosen for their skating talent more than for acting. Vinberg is very good, and Rodriguez is excellent, but the rest of the cast are merely good. I know from other films that Smith is a talented actor, but he's merely almost-good here; maybe he's not sure what to do with his character.

Another strong point of the film is the soundtrack. I don't like much in the way of rap and hip-hop, and might not even like the soundtrack outside the context of the film, but within the film the music is excellent, and I liked it a lot.

Overall, I rate the film good.

Also, a guy who attended the same screening and my wife "J" both commented that, "This would have been better as a 20-minute short." And later, J discovered that the film had been expanded from an actual 20-minute short that she discovered on the net, and shared with a group of SIFF audience regulars, with the comment that the short film was better. (I haven't seen it yet.)

[Click through for spoilers.] Spoilers (in small print, for the benefit of people who mis-click on the spoiler warning):
The film's twist on the romantic comedy formula is that the formula doesn't apply to the potential romance with the co-worker boy, but rather to Camille's Skate Kitchen friends. She gets to know them, develops a greater friendship, has a falling out over some rather foolish (but appropriate to the characters) conflicts, and eventually reconciles. The romance with the boy is something of an oddity; I think it's there more because the film-makers scored a known actor (Smith) for the cast, and didn't know what else to do with him.
I like the way the trouble the kids get into is mostly the sort of ordinary dumb things kids do when they feel young and indestructible, rather than catastrophic troubles. It's easier to empathize with the type of mistakes that might horrify protective parents like Camille's mother, but still feel like things that anyone might have done.

(End spoilers)

Languages: xxx, with English subtitles.

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate a "PG-13", unless some language slipped past my notice. Rating: This film has a US rating of "PG-13", for reason.

Screening: 2 pm, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a fairly large SIFF press screening crowd, somewhat over 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "J" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 20 films (all features), 1 unofficial party.

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