transfeminine frankenstein (busy working on her thesis)’s review published on Letterboxd:
What's better than this? Just girls bein' gals.
Skate Kitchen is like A Christmas Story in that it's a movie in which not a lot happens. The latter is about a particularly memorable Christmas, the former is about a girl who joins a skateboarding clique. Obviously there's drama in her relationships with her mother, her new friends, and the male skaters, but the focus of the movie—its emotional and artistic core—is the act of skateboarding itself. In fact, these dramatic elements almost feel like the tug of an impatient parent trying to pull me away from just watching the cool skateboarders go. It's not bad, but the conflict and stakes feel weak, as if injected out of obligation more than anything else. When I say that it's a movie in which not a lot happens, I think that I wish that even less would have actually happened: the skating shenanigans like grinding the I-Beam to piss of security and stealing the UPS guy's dolly are pure, summer sun-soaked romp.
I feel an envy watching this film. It's an an envy like when I was nine years old attempting manuals in my parents' driveway because Tony Hawk's Underground was my favorite game of all time at the time. All of the film's skaters are beautifully talented, literally beautifully talented in how expressive and technical their movements, tricks, and leaps are. It must be a blast to have a hobby like this, as tactile and personal and corporeal and as social and mechanical as skateboarding. Is it even a hobby or is it something like an athletic artform? It must be a blast to attend booming, neon-soaked skate parties in warehouse apartments. It must be a blast to be young, dumb, and full of...you know, and to crash around in New York City with close friends, and to have your day-to-day monotony and troubles excised and ellipsed off-screen. This is one of those movies that you want to live in.
What unseats me from this movie are minor but unwelcoming things. For a movie that wears an ostensible queerness on its sleeve, it has a preoccupation with genital references, like the lesbian "liking pussy" and there being "too many penises" at the skate park. As a trans woman these kinds of attitudes cleave a sharp divide between me and these cool, carefree skater girls coming-of-age. Can I really imagine myself in this movie if these characters might see me as one of those asshole guys, the penises, that the film never lets up in depicting as crude, over-competitive, bullyish, and even predatory? Is it my fault if I just can't see past these comments as cool girl banter? Is it my fault for taking it personally?
I came out at 22 and a half years old. I started hormones at 24. I'll always feel an absence, a gap, in my life where my childhood and adolescence should be, because it doesn't feel like the person who lived those parts of my life was me, in the distorted banks of my memory. And movies like this will always be bittersweet to me because of that: not just because I can't just jump into them and take them as my own, but because even if I could, I'm not sure if I would be welcome. Whether it could have been me, could have been me.