Coming of Age, Indie-Style, in the Oh-So-Familiar Skateland

Ritchie (Shiloh Fernandez) wants to write, but he’s not getting any closer to the Nobel working at a roller-skating rink in Nowhere, Texas, sucking Lone Stars at quitting time with his buddies, lake-house lothario Kenny (Taylor Handley) and Brent (Heath Freeman), a pushing-30 former motocross rider just back in town. Fernandez looks like a young Joaquin Phoenix, and everything else here is off-brand familiar. Writer-director Anthony Burns’s coming-of-age cheapie poaches from the various regional I Vitellonis of American independent cinema: He strips Adventureland for spare parts, while Handley at one point drawls Matthew McConaughey’s “All right, all right” direct from Dazed and Confused. (Skateland’s early-’80s milieu splits the chronological difference.) If this is a personal movie for Burns, little indication of that fact comes across. An opening tracking shot and a car chase seem to attract the filmmaker’s attention, but one stagnantly staged dialogue after another shows his indifference to the character study ostensibly being made. It is a dictum of the small-town-purgatory genre that leaving the nest to pursue one’s dreams—almost always a career in the arts—is an intrinsically noble goal. If Skateland is the sort of work Ritchie’s future holds, it’s proof that some talents are better off staying home.

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