Whip It

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whip_itWhip It
2009, USA
Directed by Drew Barrymore
Written by Shauna Cross (also novel)
Starring Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig

Whip It is not for me. And I mean that literally: it wasn’t made for me. The producers of the film probably couldn’t care less what a 20-something male thinks of their attempt to market roller derby as a form of tween-age rebellion somewhere between black nail polish and a giving a blowjob to the Raconteurs’ bassist. They’re interested in an age group outgrowing their Jordin Sparks CDs, not film critics pissed off Suicidegirls.com is blocked by the office firewall and looking to ogle some tattoos.

But you know what? I liked it anyway. Despite its clumsiness, its cheesiness, and a plot so far beyond formulaic it makes algebra look like chaos theory.

Whip It stars Juno’s Ellen Page as Bliss Cavender, a precocious small town teenager whose life has become a rut of beauty pageants and waitressing. Her mother is domineering, her father passive, and her town is one of those places where high school football playbooks carry more weight than the Bible. While visiting Austin, she discovers roller derby, which is like NASCAR for women who work in head shops and dress like Tank Girl. Things develop predictably from there.

I’m not sure what, exactly, I responded to in this film, because first-time director Drew Barrymore takes no risks in her by-the-numbers adaptation of an already straightforward script by Shauna Cross. Perhaps it’s the performance of Alia Shakwak (Arrested Development) as Bliss’ best friend ; particularly lively compared with Page’s bored interpretation of her familiar typcasting. Or maybe it’s Kristen Wiig as roller derby captain Maggie Mayhem, who proves she’s capable of dramatic moments when not reusing parts from her SNL skits. Or maybe it’s roller derby’s undeniable energy that helps overcome the weaker spots in Whip It, such as Juliette Lewis’ impossibly over the top performance as antagonist Iron Maiven. In any case, while Whip It is far from a good film, it’s a fairly enjoyable one. At least if you can’t log onto Suicide Girls.

Here’s the trailer:

Al Kratina

Read an alternate review of Whip It here. Visit Al at www.alkratina.com , or follow him on twitter.

1 Comment
  1. Nichole says

    I really loved this movie. I didn’t at all believe it was directed to teenaged girls though. I thought they all kicked butt! I loved the whole story line and the fact that girls can RULE in sports while boys cheer them on.

    We have a local women’s rollar derby in my area and I met one of the players. She worked in a tattoo shop, so your observation was what I felt correct. It takes a certain kind of girl to go out there and smash each other around on rollar skates and tiny skirts.

    I am glad you liked it too, but I don’t believe you liked it as much as I did. If you are a girl reading this, go check out the dvd of this great movie. I believe it was as great as Juno was, but that movie WAS directed towards teenaged girls.

    I feel that this is a movie for Ellen Page to finally seem more grown up than a high school sophmore, even though in the movie her character is in high school. I think she just keeps getting the kid roles because she’s just not that developed yet. But, dispite her character almost all the other girls, including ALL the rest of the derby players are adults.

    You did forget to mention that Drew Barrymore does play a role in this film as well as Juliette Lewis. Even when she was the bad girl, I still LOVED her character and it’s the best role that Juliette has done in a long time, in my opinon.

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