Directed by Anthony Burns
Skateland, a pretty—and pretty conventional!—coming-of-age story, takes place when the 70s became the 80s, a nationally transformative era that director and co-writer Burns reduces to a time of personal upheaval: Ritchie (Shiloh Fernandez), the manager of the titular roller rink and "a writer," watches his parents split up and Skateland shut down. He lives in a suburb—you know, one of those places where all the girls look like movie stars—and so part of growing up involves deciding to leave his hometown; you can't make anything of yourself in the sticks. As such, he joins a long line of movie Palookavillians, from those in 1977's Saturday Night Fever to this March's White Irish Drinkers. "I gotta get outta here," Ritchie's sister says, quoting Tony Manero almost verbatim.
Burns flaunts the period signifiers: it's the age of microwaves, mix-tapes and MTV, with a dully familiar soundtrack of #1 Hits. ("Heart of Glass" when a party's pumping, "Tide is High" as it dies down.) But what the film lacks in emotional sincerity—what separates it, say, from the similarly titled and themed Adventureland—is almost made up for by the photography, like the opening, unbroken tracking shot from the parking lot into Skateland: gliding characters captured by a seemingly gliding camera—as though cinematographer Peter Simonite were also on skates—the images bathed in pinks and purples and reds. House interiors are cast in the amber glow of lamps and sunlight, and Burns often shoots long, actor-friendly takes. His approach evokes Paul Thomas Anderson, not only in the boogieing roller-disco aesthetic but also in the generally virtuosic visual style—just not so much with that boilerplate script. Storytellers need to realize that just because their adolescences—and this goes for first break-ups, too—felt significant, they weren't. Not for everyone else, anyway.
Opens May 13