‘Skate Kitchen’ Honors ‘Kids’ While Putting A Feminist Twist On The Classic Youth Story Template
Photo Credit: S & A

‘Skate Kitchen’ Honors ‘Kids’ While Putting A Feminist Twist On The Classic Youth Story Template

While gentrification and hypebeasts seem to threaten skate culture, Skate Kitchen defines the charming albeit badass community that remains. In her sophomore feature film, director Crystal Moselle trains her lens to what’s, as the kids say, valid: a collective of six real-life New York skater girls who connect through Instagram to shred, shares tales of their adolescent hookups and rave at house parties. Moselle’s understanding of what it means to be a respectful student of unfamiliar territory earned her 2015 indie documentary The Wolfpack much acclaim.

Skate Kitchen’s star, Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), is a shy teenager standing uncomfortably on the fringes of the skate community. Shredding in her hometown of Long Island, she quietly longs to feel connected to other lady boarders or anything for that matter. In one scene, she’s painfully disconnected even from a milestone—her 18th birthday. Then along comes no-filter funny girl Kurt (Nina Moran) and self-confident Janay (Ardelia Lovelace) who introduce Camille to the rest of the crew (Kabrina Adams, Ajani Russell, Jules Lorenzo) and better parks to drop in, but perhaps most importantly, to the larger, freer world.

As this badass band of self-assured girls spend most of their days skating, intimate moments find them exploring the uncertainty of sexual identity, feminism and even the normalized way teens view sexual assault. Halfway through the film, Russell nonchalantly describes an incident where she woke up “with scratches on her body” in a guy’s bed while Lorenzo chimes in with her story about a guy who took her hand to grab his penis.

“Nah, I’m gonna start doing that s**t, though,” Ajani says.

“To boys?” Kurt asks.

“Yeah… it’s like feminism.”

But while these conversations, mined directly from the girls’ genuine experiences, could be unpacked and placed at the forefront of the film, Moselle doesn’t wade in them or even on the abundance of teenage debauchery among the skaters. Sure, the film’s gaze veers into the territory of things parents fear their teens are experimenting—even Camille’s mother attempts to stop her from hanging with her new friends—but Skate Kitchen only depicts sex, drugs and friendship feuds among the obstacles of life teenagers still face. No more, no less.

As quickly as a party scene turns from rave to raunchy semi-orgy, Moselle moves onto one where Camille is casually making plans to link up with the girls via text while working at a grocery store. And therein lies the beauty: at the core of this film, the only thing that matters is the lasting and necessary bond of female friendship, whether inside or outside of the skate world.

That’s further proven after Camille begins to skate with an all-boys crew that includes Devon (Jaden Smith), who just so happens to be Janay’s ex-fling. After Janay gets injured, Camille cozies up with Devon, and a devastating breakup between Camille and the girls arises. They all find themselves supportive and understanding of one another at every turn and by the film’s end.

If listening to the kids is imperative to understanding how society views its women, the vibrancy of skate culture and cities like New York, then the kids, especially the girls and the power they possess, are alright.