By Gary “Roller Disco” Murray
Starring Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Greene, Heath Freeman and Brent Cullen
Written by Brandon Freeman, Heath Freeman and Anthony Burns
Directed by Anthony Burns
Running time 1 hr 38 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Back in the 1980s, John Hughes made some of the most important films about teenagers for teenagers. The Breakfast Club is the definitive film on cliques and how different kids can find common ground. But, films made today about that decade are all about pastel wearing preps in designer jeans. The new film Skateland is a drama that tries to set the record on a straighter path.
The story of Skateland is of Richie (Shiloh Fernandez) the manager of a skating park. He has worked his way up to manager and enjoys the simple joy of going around the rink and running the limbo game. The kids of this East Texas town are in two different camps—those who are going off to college and those who are staying behind.
Michelle (Ashley Greene) is one of those going away. She’s been living next door to Richie since they were babies and knows all his secrets and desires. She also has the coolest job in town, working at the Musicland record store. Richie shares his writings with her and she sees the talent he possesses. Michelle has an older brother Brent (Heath Freeman) has made it out of town by being a motorcycle competitor. Back home, he spins wild tales of being on the road for all the younger kids who hang out and party every night.
The home life of Richie is falling apart. His mother and father are separating, with Mom living out a single life in the fading discos still playing that funky groove. Richie’s job is also coming to an end, with rumors of the Skateland rink closing. All of these elements build to a major tragedy for one of the characters. Skateland is a slice of life with a bitter aftertaste.
The film is as much of a showcase for Heath Freeman as it is for the new production company he is a part of. He does a solid job with the performance of Brent, the guy who knows his days are numbered on the dirt track but still has hope in his heart. Seeing a world outside of this hamlet, he knows that there are many different ways to break free from small town ideas and prejudices.
Shiloh Fernandez has been recently making a name for himself in Hollywood, breaking into some major motion pictures. Here, he brings little to the performance. It is almost as if he is floating through the film like his character is floating through life. One wants some kind of spark with his actions.
Skateland is set in the early 1980s but is not to be specific to any certain year. I found that irritating. Example–the Musicland store has old for that time posters in the background. Musicland was a lame pop record palace that would never have Jimi Hendrix and Rush 2112 posters on the wall, both old for the time period. Human League and Toto would have graced the walls of a mall record store. It sounds like nitpicking but when it throws one out of the story, it makes the point of the plot harder to accept.
Skateland is dedicated to John Hughes but it is not as good as a John Hughes film. It has some of the same elements and tries to bring some of the same reverence but never truly delivers on the promise. If you want the 1980s, watch The Breakfast Club.