Award-winning filmmaker Crystal Moselle makes her dramatic feature directing debut with Skate Kitchen (Magnolia). While it’s at least 20 minutes too long, Skate Kitchen (the first of 2018 skateboarding movies – the second being Jonah Hill’s Mid90s) is nevertheless worth seeing for the performances Moselle gets out of her cast of mostly newcomers.
Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a socially-awkward 18 year old, lives with her single mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez from “Orange is the New Black”) on Long Island. She enjoys going to the skateboard park and working on her skating skills. She also posts videos of herself skateboarding on Instagram. When she takes a serious fall at the local skateboard park, getting banged up and “credit carded” in her genital region, she is treated by a gynecologist in the emergency room. Her overprotective mother’s main concern is that she might have done something to herself that would affect her ability to have children.
On the day Camille has her stitches removed, her mother makes her promise she won’t skate anymore. Camille acquiesces, but as soon as her mother leaves for work, she catches a train into the city with her skateboard in hand. At a Lower East Side skate park she meets Kurt (Nina Moran), a baby butch who follows her on Instagram, telling the other female skaters, Janay (Ardelia Lovelace), Indigo and photographer Ruby (Kabrina Adams) that Camille is “mad good.”
As she connects with these other young female skaters, we see Camille transform before our eyes. She has found her crew and a place to belong. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out of the house with her skateboard on a regular basis and hanging out with her new “Skate Kitchen” friends.
Camille is aware she’s not as cool as the others: she doesn’t get high, she’s not a hugger, she’s naive. But it’s her talent on a skateboard that guarantees her a place in the group.
Just as things begin to go well for her, conflicts arise. She misses the last train home from the city, gets home late, and fights with her mother, who then takes her board away. This doesn’t stop Camille from returning to the city where one of the boy skaters is nice enough to give her a board. Camille doesn’t answer her mother’s calls to her cell. She begins to stay at Janay’s house.
Things escalate when her mother comes to the skate park, embarrassing and then slapping Camille. Camille packs her things and leaves home for good. Unfortunately, Camille’s life becomes complicated again when she becomes attracted to Devon (Jaden Smith), a photographer, skateboarder, and stock clerk at the supermarket where she works. Devon, as it turns out, is the heartbreaker ex-boyfriend of Janay. When word gets out that they’ve been hanging out together, Camille’s newfound social world comes crashing down on her.
While some potentially bleak scenarios arise, it’s not all doom and gloom. Camille is able to mend the broken wheels in her life and live to skate another day. DVD special features include deleted scenes, a photo gallery and a pair of behind the scenes shorts.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbook GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008).
He has work forthcoming in the anthology Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.