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Skateland: 80’s Coming-of-Age Drama

  • Ashley GreeneBrett Cullen...
  • Drama
  • Out now
  • Anthony Burns
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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Skateland: 80’s Coming-of-Age Drama

Skateland takes a universal
story and sets it in a specific era, in this case small-town Texas in the early
80s. The local skating rink, Skateland is closing down. Its manager, 19-year-old
Ritchie (Fernandez) has to figure out what he intends to do with his life, by either
finding a new job or going to college to hone his writing talent. Either way,
he has to start getting his life back on track so he doesn’t end up like his
friend Brent (Freeman), the oldest guy at the high school parties. 

immediate enjoyment is more in its m
ise-en-scène than in its narrative. The
clothes, the sets, the feathered hair and the soundtrack, even the red and blue
palette evoke the 80s perfectly. The film is just beautiful to look at and the
soundtrack goes perfectly with the visuals. We’re introduced to the three main
characters to the sound of Def Leppard’s ‘Rock of Ages’ and we find out that
Ritchie’s mum is having an affair while Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ plays. It’s
the perfect late 70s/early 80s mix tape. Even the characters’ jobs are
reminiscent of the era; Ritchie works at a roller skating rink while his
friend, music nerd Michelle (Greene) works at a record shop.  

 Unfortunately, the same attention paid to the production values was not given
to the story or acting. The plot is your run-of-the-mill tale of teen
transitions to adulthood full of existential angst. However, Fernandez’s
Ritchie doesn’t really seem to care about his future and doesn’t want to bother
with thinking about it despite having Brent, the eternal man-child, as an
example of what he could end up becoming. Brent’s life isn’t going anywhere and
he’s reduced to boozing with high school kids while people his age have steady
jobs and families.

When Ritchie goes on about not being able to make a decision
because he doesn’t know what he wants, you don’t believe that he’s given the
matter any thought in the first place. He comes across as lazy, not lost, and you
never really understand why both his sister and Michelle nag him so much about
his future; for some reason they care more than he does! And while his sister’s
attitude may be understandable (they’re related and she seems like a Stepford
wife-in-training), Michelle is the exact opposite of Ritchie. She’s motivated,
knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get there. Naturally, she gets
fed up with Ritchie, but never really gives up on him. 

Skateland is a charming, beautiful film buoyed by an incredible
soundtrack but held back by lacklustre performances of a potentially very
likeable cast. Watch it for the visuals and the music.

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Skateland is dedicated to the late John Hughes, director of such iconic teen movies as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

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