Girl skateboarder posse

  • by David Lamble
  • Wednesday August 15, 2018
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Scene from director Crystal Moselle's "Skate Kitchen." Photo: Magnolia Pictures
Scene from director Crystal Moselle's "Skate Kitchen." Photo: Magnolia Pictures

"Skate Kitchen" is a terrific new girls-can-skate-too New York City drama from San Francisco-born, Tamalpais High School-educated director Crystal Moselle. In her captivating 2015 doc "The Wolf Pack," Moselle uncovered six brothers who had been kept indoors and home-schooled all their lives by their paranoid dad.

With some obvious bows to bad-boy director Larry Clark's 1995 aimless-teens street saga "Kids," Moselle's new entry "Skate Kitchen" plants you with a pack of 16-year-old girls with a lot of energy to burn, and a gravity-defying love for all the near-death highs and bone-breaking lows that a wild child can find within sight of the Empire State Building.

Our heroine is Camille (a low-key sizzle from newcomer Rochelle Vinberg, whose Plain Jane glasses are an inverse badge of toughness). The opening scene finds Camille taking a bad fall to a heckling chorus of grade-school boys. After she's patched up, the ride home has her immigrant mom coercing a promise that she abandon her board. "Otherwise you won't be able to have kids." Instead, Camille hops a Long Island Railroad train for "the City," where she meets up with a Lower Manhattan girl posse that skates a far tougher course.

"Skate Kitchen" reminds us that teen girls, when they swing out against rule-making parents and cops, can be a whole lot scarier that their mouthy punk boyfriends. A poignant moment finds a high-flying girl skater, whose ankle-twisting mishap keeps her out of action, starting to fear that her ferocious girl buddies may leave her behind without so much as a backward glance.

Camille keeps zigging back and forth between the girls and the boys, including the junior heartthrob antics of a punk-boy skater named Devon (Jaden Smith). Camille's inability to stick with either the girls or the boys marks her as a problem in a world that insists a kid pick sides long before the consequences of those choices become clear. The film also features delightful moments when the kids navigate the precincts of downtown office towers protected by security guards resembling their often-missing dads.

We don't get a neat "the girls are OK" ending. By closing credits, Camille has survived, only to realize that the adult world is full of falls not so nearly survivable as the ones from her board. Kudos for the highly mobile camera of Shabiek Kirchner, the editing of Nico Lemnen, and the hip music track by Aska Matsumiya. This is one soundtrack to look out for. And if, like me, you fear heights, "Skate Kitchen" is a thrilling if temporary vacation from your phobia. But you are strongly advised not to try these tricks at home.

Opens Friday at Landmark's Embarcadero Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. Rated R for drug use and language, strong sexual content, and some nudity.