James Wallace

by: James Wallace
April 13th, 2010

Rating: 4.5/5

Director: Anthony Burns
Writers: Anthony Burns, Brandon Freeman, Heath Freeman
Cast: Ashley Greene, Shiloh Fernandez, Heath Freeman, Taylor Handley, A.J. Buckley
Studio: Freeman Film

Ah, the '80s. 1983 to be exact. It was the time of Michael Jackson, RETURN OF THE JEDI, the introduction of the McNugget, and of course, the ever popular past time of weekends at the roller rink. But for 18-year-old budding writer Ritchie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez), his tenure at Skateland is not something he wants to fade away like the acid wash on jeans. He's holding on to his "comfortable" life in Small Town, Texas like a kid holds on to the rails when he's too afraid to coast into that couple skate known as life.

But, as they say, such is life. Everyone holds on to something. His father (Brett Cullen) is holding on to a loveless marriage with his mother (Melinda McGraw). His best friend Brent (Heath Freeman) is holding on to his heyday in high school, as he gets older while the kids at the high school parties he hangs out at stay the same age. Brent's sister Michelle (Ashley Greene) holds on to the hope that Ritchie will finally open his eyes and realize he is in love with her.

Just as you can't learn to skate without falling a few times, you can't live your life without facing reality and realizing it may not turn out like you would like it to. Life, like skating, may give you a few bumps and bruises. There will even be a few less skaters as time goes on. But it is always something to live to the fullest and take advantage of.

Luckily, as a film, SKATELAND turns out exactly like you want it to. As a darkly dramatic and emotionally heartfelt film about the trials and tribulations of growing up, no matter how old or young you may be. And, subsequently, the film is authentic and genuine in this to the core. From its countless well-acted moments by every single member of its pitch perfect cast, to its thoughtful look back at the '80s to its incredible soundtrack that plays out like the perfect '80s mixtape, SKATELAND is a film that transcends its time period in substance while always paying homage to it in story.

The raw human emotion and relatable qualities of the film shine through despite the fact that the it feels so veritable in its retro motif. Furthermore, the cinematography in SKATELAND is a thing of beauty: rich in texture and abstract in its pacing and editing. For those of us that grew up in Texas and spent our childhoods in this wonderful state during that oh-so-rad time, the film is a gorgeous portrait of Texan Americana.

Never a careless pastiche of either the '80s or human relationships, SKATELAND gives a poignant reminder of that decade that once was while exploring that ever so familiar idea of being young and getting older. And it does so in a way that I think would make Mr. Hughes very proud.

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