WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Skate Kitchen’s most shocking moment comes unexpected, mere minutes into the film. Enter Camille (Skate Kitchen co-founder Rachelle Vinberg), a teenager living a lonely suburban lifestyle with seemingly nothing to call her own but a beloved skateboard. That is, until one lonesome day at the skate park where she’s betrayed by the very same board — a quick misstep of her trusted board and Camille’s evoking Carrie White at prom from the waist down.
It’s a point of interest that she’s surrounded by only male skaters during the incident – ones who don’t ask if she’s okay, don’t try to help her up, don’t really do anything much besides tell her she needs to go to the bathroom and sort out her period. If you’re looking for an anti-testosterone undertone within Skate Kitchen’s feminist narrative, look away — soon after, Camille’s mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is quick to take away her board on the insistence if another similar accident happens, Camille won’t be able to have any children in the future.
Between the tensions with her mother and a lingering crush on a boy she could do better than, Camille is Lady Bird for those of us who grew up on Odd Future and Pineapple Express. The camera violently shakes and blurs whenever the world around her does, but always seems to remain stagnant when it’s settled on her friend group as they navigate organic day-to-day conversations pulled straight from the mouths of any group of teenage girls you’ve encountered. Skate Kitchen straddles the line between documentary and narrative film at times, with the friendship between the skate collective translating beautifully to film, making for an immersive and realistic experience. There are frequent laments of familiar struggles, like how a girl’s body changing feels like a betrayal, but they’re always met with reassurance and care, making for the kind of film women will wish they had growing up.
Skate Kitchen is not a loud and proud girl power party — that’s exactly what makes it such an empowering film for women. Its feminist nature lies within subtle moments, like the comments regarding Camille’s accident – small, offhand remarks that only mean nothing if you don’t remember what it’s like to be a teenage girl. Camille and her friends talk through sexual assault, changing bodies, gaslighting, periods and the haunting worry of being “credit-carded” (a callback to Camille’s big spill). They work through these issues with a natural, almost improvised cadence; the way real young women talk – candid, unashamed, profanity-and-innuendo-laced. Overall, this is unlike any other depiction of teenage girls you’ve seen on screen before and, as a result, one of the most realistic. Most importantly, it’s in a way that comes off almost sisterly to the audience. It’s as though the writers are reaching through the screen and reassuring young female viewers you shouldn’t be embarrassed about dealing with these issues — the feminist heroines of Skate Kitchen have all the confidence in the world and they still do.
The feminist heroines in question are the all-female skate collective (played entirely by real life skate collective, also called Skate Kitchen, founded back in the girls’ high school days) Camille vicariously lives through by way of their Instagram posts. When they offer an open invitation for other girls to come and skate with them, Camille steals her board back and swings by the Skate Kitchen’s usual haunt. Welcomed with a nurturing, maternal care previously foreign to her, Camille is branded part of the girl gang the moment they lay eyes on her.
From there, we watch shy Camille’s timid surface slowly and naturally dissipate over the course of a cinematographically stunning two hours, lost beneath smoke clouds, skate montages and a Harmony Korine-esque party sequence where she runs into Devon (Jaden Smith), the only alluring member of a knucklehead rival skate crew, who she adorably has nothing further to talk to about other than their favourite colours. But it’s not the growth as a skater nor the hard partying that unleashes Camille’s confidence — it’s finally having a friend group to call home, and a heartfelt one she knows she can always count on.
Skate Kitchen has two more showings at The Film House this upcoming weekend. Seeing it means getting to know an endearing, multifaceted group of girls better than you know yourself. And take your little sister — trust me, she needs it.