I had high hopes for this movie. I really did.
What I imagined was a film about a group of friends whose lives revolve around their favorite place, Skateland. It’s the place where they first fall in love, find their best friends, and take their first punch. A coming-of-age tale where the central conflict becomes about saving their beloved Skateland at the end of the roller-skating era.
Again, that is the movie I hoped for. That is not what the writers or director gave me.
In reality, Skateland is barely a movie about said place. The film, like its main character, Richie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez), does not know what it wants to be when it grows up. Instead of focusing on any one central conflict, it focuses on several:
- Richie dealing with the news that Skateland’s owner Teddy (A.J. Buckley) has decided to close Skateland’s doors and sell the business.
- Mary Wheeler (Haley Ramm), Richie’s sister, trying to show her brother he is destined for greater things.
- The Dawson’s Creek-like relationship between Richie and his best girlfirend Michelle (Ashley Greene) figuring out if they are just friends or more than that.
- Brent (Heath Freeman, who was also a writer on this film), Michelle’s brother, coming to terms that his teenage days and his motorcycling career are over.
- Richie’s parents realizing they have become different people and deciding to get divorved
- Richie finding out that his mom is not only divorcing his dad, but has been having an affair for many years.
- Richie and Brent dealing with Tommy (James Hebert), the town bully, and his two sidekicks always starting crap.
- And a tragic death that causes Richie to truly comteplate what he wants to do with his life.
Who needs a good three-act structure when you can have 17?
The film could have been a better one, if the writers had just focused on a central conflict and actually tied these characters to Skateland. We see only a few scenes set at the roller rink and no one else besides Richie, who is Skateland’s manager, seems to ever go there. No wonder the place had to be sold.
Besides not being able to settle on a conflict, the movie couldn’t settle on what year it was either. The music in the film ranged from the late ’70s to ’83 and the characters in the film dress the same way. Even certain set pieces and props added to the confusion. It was hard to know if disco killed rollerskating or if the valley girls did.
On a happy note, the actors in this film, while put into very cliched situations do a great job with what they are given. Almost all the actors have a solid grasp on their characters. And although Heath Freeman may not have written a tight script, he is a good actor.
It is clear that Anthony Burns and the Freeman brothers tried to write and direct a script that was inspired by such films as Dazed and Confused and captured the magic of John Hughes. All three have a love for the era in this film. However, it’s apparent that none of them actually came of age during those years. It was a time and place they heard of and created fantasy around those stories.
Although I never need to see Skateland again, I hope these writers and director learn from the mistakes of this film and go on to create something great.