Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lords Of Dogtown (2005) Film Review
Lords Of Dogtown
Reviewed by: Josh Morrall
The story of how a group of surfers in Dogtown, Santa Monica, came from humble beginnings to revolutionise the face and heart of skateboarding forever was told in full in Stacy Peralta's award winning documentary Dogtown And Z-Boys.
Lords Of Dogtown is the documentary's richer, but far more commercial, younger brother, scripted by Peralta and directed with vibrancy by Catherine Hardwicke, who got the job off the back of her debut feature, Thirteen.
The film opens with the Zephyr skate team already on the verge of being established. The focus is on their descent into exploded egotism, gang culture and drugs - the price of fame, wealth and rivalry. It is not the story that makes Lords Of Dogtown a highly respectable piece of filmmaking, rather the way it is told.
Shock! Horror! Teenage boy smokes marijuana! This is a tale of woe that has been heard before and because Peralta aims to engage the audience in this lifestyle of missed opportunities and forgotten morality, originality is left at the poolside.
The other fundamental flaw lies in its loose narrative. Peralta aims for an edgy, gritty, but honest script, and achieves elements of this, but his approach also allows a lot of room for boredom to creep in, especially scenes involving the less likeable characters. Jay, perhaps the most proficient skateboarder of the team, is difficult to watch, let alone like. Emile Hirsch is so successful at presenting Jay as an uneducated and vastly confused little boy that the audience is left struggling to adapt to Peralta's attempts to make him likeable - and he doesn't even have an amusing (if unfortunate) drug habit to lighten the load, a la Heath Ledger's wonderful and tragic rendition of Skip.
Battling against the over sympathetic script is Catherine Hardwicke's direction, which is faultless. Her use of hand held camera throws the audience into each and every scene, taking us over the same bumps in the road that the skaters face, both on and off the board. She started her career as a production designer and it's clear that this is a realm she commands. The Seventies appear effortlessly reborn, some of camera work mirroring original footage in not only design but also style, creating an aesthetic that is undeniably impressive.
The rivalry between the skaters is intensified by their polar characters, Tony (Victor Rasuk) being hugely arrogant, Stacy (John Robinson - in danger of being typecast) mild mannered. This two-dimensional characterisation serves to push the film away from the realism it seeks to achieve and it is tempting to blame this on Peralta, who belongs in the documentary genre. Yet, the intimacy of the camera and the fact that they are all just little kids really enables some semblance of silent brotherhood to pervade.
Lords Of Dogtown is very well made, but its limp narrative and unhinged characters prevent it from being as watchable as its documentary forebear.Reviewed on: 16 Sep 2005