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Five teen girls coast the hot pavement, boards beneath their feet, tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York. A tiny girl in a white summer dress, front baby teeth missing, turns and watches them roll, a look of fascination and admiration in her eyes.

Crystal Moselle's first feature (2018) grew out of a chance encounter with some New York skater girls. She bought them coffees and made them the center of "That One Day," a short sponsored by Miu Miu, a Prada subsidiary. Then the group shot for something bigger. Filmed on location with an Alexa mini-cam, Skate Kitchen presents a stretch in the life of some late-teen female skaters, a sort of harder-edged Hard Day's Night for a real-life skate collective, with the girls playing fictionalized versions of themselves.

Moselle's reputation, up to this point, rests largely with the documentary form. She's best-known for the Sundance-winning The Wolfpack, about six brothers raised inside an apartment who only knew the larger world through movies. Much of this film consists of documentary-style skate footage and Cinéma véritésque scenes of teen girl bonding. The Kitchen attend parties, work jobs, engage in summer hijinks, and shred into space claimed by boys. They assure an insecure Janay that her vagina is "valid."

The small plot focuses on Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a skater from Long Island who leaves home over a dispute with her mother. She vies for and gains acceptance among her new friends, moves in with one of them. Then drama arises around Devon, a skater/photographer played by Jaden Smith, who inadvertently comes between Camille and the Kitchen.

The personalities of the posse have been sketched, loosely. We learn only a little about their diverse personal backgrounds, or what drew them into skating. The players-- most notably Ardelia Lovelace ("Janay"), and Nina Moran ("Kurt")-- do cast a strong presence on the screen. Except for Vinburg's Camille, however, most characters remain notions of skating, teen angst, and youthful freedom. Performances from the supporting cast are strong and credible, but not especially deep.

Conflicts resolve, but we never witness many specifics of the resolutions. Skate Kitchen fills the screen with visual brilliance and undeniable power. It's definitely worth a view. But the subject might have been better served by either an actual documentary, or an enhanced script, something that would further explore the girls beneath the pavement-cruising, street-charming personae.

Update: Much of the cast were reunited for Betty, an HBO series (2020) that appears to be telling the same basic story, over several episodes.

Directed by Crystal Moselle
Written by Crystal Moselle, Jen Silverman, and Aslihan Unaldi, with input from the cast.

Rachelle Vinberg as Camille
Ardelia Lovelace as Janay
Nina Moran as Kurt
Kabrina Adams as Ruby
Ajani Russell as Indigo
Tashiana Washington as Lana
Jules Lorenzo as Eliza
Jaden Smith as Devon
Brenn Lorenzo as Quinn
Judah Lang as Dusty
Elizabeth Rodriguez as Renata
Emmanuel Barco as Barco
Alexander Cooper as Charlie
Dylan Pitanza as Skater Boy 1
Kobi Frumer as Skater Boy 2
Taylor Gray as Jared
Nico Hiraga as Patrick
Malachi Omega as Isaiah
John Palumbo as The Manager

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