A teenage skateboarder's life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.A teenage skateboarder's life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.A teenage skateboarder's life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard.
This film has a number of strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps its biggest strength is the commendable ordinariness of its teens; they could be your kids, your brother or sister, your friends, you; their every thought and action isn't predetermined by an overpowering desire to get laid, they're not prone to playing pranks on one another or their teachers, and they're not getting drunk or taking drugs at every opportunity. They have pointless conversations that go nowhere, the aspects of the world they consider unimportant are instinctively exiled to the edges of their consciousness and they are not yet infected with the overbearing urge to get on in life. Alex, the film's focal point, wanders aimlessly through his life, the impact of his accidental killing of a security guard barely monitoring on his blank features.
The film also wanders, also apparently aimlessly for much of its brief running time. Van Sant employs a non-linear chronology to tell his tale, a device that has very quickly become over-used and that, in most cases, adds little or nothing to the impact of the fractured story it describes. Here, scenes that don't make a lot of sense the first time we see them are replayed later on once the chronological gaps have been filled. It's like pieces of a jigsaw falling into place but it also smells suspiciously of a director with not much material on his hands using every trick he can think of to elongate material that doesn't really add up to more than 45 minutes screen time. In addition to the same scenes playing twice, Van Sant also treats us to long (and frequent) slow motion sequences of nothing in particular: school-kids walking through their school's corridors, Alex's friend driving his car, kids at the eponymous skateboard park showing their stuff in grainy 8mm. It all adds a dreamy, detached feel to things that pulls you in with its mesmerising repetition in the same way that the fluent, alert sections of the mind might yield to some particularly strong grass, only without dulling the senses.
The isolation of all youth from whatever generation is succinctly captured in Alex's plight, the extremity of his situation perversely succeeding in pinpointing teen angst rather than generalising it. I can't really decide whether Nevins is terrific or just terrifically bad. His face is an impenetrable mask, almost permanently blank, and his lines are delivered in a monotone that captures the inflections (or lack of) of youth. All this might have been what he was told to do, or might just be the best he can muster in terms of acting ability. Either way, his character provokes responses that range from sympathy to exasperation in the viewer, which ultimately leave you wishing you could step inside the story to bang a few heads together and get things moving.
Fans of Van Sant will probably love this film, but very few neutral viewers will be converted to his style of movie-making.
- Jun 11, 2008