Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Review: Shred America

Release date: March 24, 2018
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Michael Kosciesza, James Lagen, Anthony Michal, Arthur Swidzinski

Shred America is the story of four friends--Mike, James, Tony, and Art--who have a dream and a very bad plan: to skate / bike from Chicago to New York with few supplies, preparations, or overall directions.  The film showcases their journey, wrong turns, issues, and ultimate adventure as they slowly make their way across 1000 miles of American landscape.  

The most remarkable thing about Shred America is how nonchalantly these youths go about their journey.  They start with a rough idea of where they want to go, and look at a map or two, then head out.  They did not prepare or plan other than having a few major landmarks they wanted to visit, they just had a dream and said let's go.  Along the way they pick up information and publicity.  It is refreshing to see this type of youthful determination, even if it is a little distressing.  But they manage and despite their many setbacks, they keep pushing forward.  The film is fueled by the personalities of the friends; their interactions, personalities, and attitudes make up much of the fun of the film.  And their general demeanor and goofing off are fun to see.  The documentary shows an unfiltered look at their journey and friendship.  The documentary shows footage of the journey cut with explanations and insights from the friends as they are now.  It is really fun to see them in 2008 cut against their narrating, older, and wiser selves!

Another interesting aspect of this documentary is that the friends take a low tech approach to this trip.  Maybe this is just what it was like at the time, but they use maps to navigate, use flip phones to communicate, and generally rely on strangers to give them routes and advice.  It is entertaining to watch and be reminded of a time when we didn't have instant access to information and perfect GPS.  However, one thing that would have been nice to see in the documentary was some initial rules for the trip.  Although the premise is skateboarding across America, the friends--by necessity--rely on walking, rides, and sometimes public transit to get where they need to go.  Some specific parameters for their journey would have been nice to see at the start, but that also would have gone against the raw, free-spirited attitude of the film.  Additionally, despite the fun personalities and adventure of the group, the documentary itself is a little slow.  This is due to the nature of the journey, but like the trip itself, the documentary tends to drag in the middle.  And finally, I would have liked to see what happened to the friends after the documentary.  There was no "where are they now" type feature and I was curious to see what became of them. 

Shred America shows that sometimes all you need is a dream, some friends, youthful determination, and a whole lot of luck!  

Rent it.

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