Director: Drew Barrymore
Screenplay: Shauna Cross
Actors: Ellen Page, arthritis Marcia Gay Harden, drug Drew Barrymore, visit this site Juliet Lewis, Kristen Wiig
Date of Release: October 2, 2009
Based on the book of the same name
Bliss Cavender lives in small town Bodeen, Texas and works at a small diner with her best friend Pash. Suffocating in her mom’s dreams for her to become a beauty pageant queen, she finds herself thrust into the world of roller derby when she decides to try out for the team in Austin. Discovering her love for the sport, her world changes as she makes new friends, lies to her parents, and even manages to find herself a guy.
“Whip It” is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut at a theatrical film, and it accomplishes to be a very entertaining one at that. The script is funny, witty, and though at times seemed over-the top, Barrymore reigns it in and makes the story fun yet believable. Cinematography and use of color are first rate, since the bright, vivid color palette made the roller derby action sequences jump off the screen, in comparison to the mute and bland hues when Bliss returns home to Bodeen.
Some characters were caricature like – such as Drew Barrymore’s “Smashley Simpson”, and Kristin Wiig’s “Maggie Mayhem”, but the three dimensional character of Bliss and those of her family gave balance to the film.
* Possible Spoilers *
Though there was a lot to be said that was good about the film, there were as many points that bothered me. A few things seemed cliche – mother (played by the always terrific Marcia Gay Harden) wanting the best for her daughter and when what she wants for her daughter doesn’t happen, she ends up completely touched when witnessing Bliss competing and skating her heart out. In that moment, I had several flash backs to the movie “Ice Princess”. Tough girl “Iron Maven” (played by Juliet Lewis, who is perfect in this rough edged role), gives her an incredibly hard time and is the antagonist in the film (though it could be argued that it is also her mom), though, it’s cliche, yet again.
Those small nitpicks aside, my biggest problem was I found Bliss to be completely unlikeable in about three quarters of the film. Perhaps it is the performance that Ellen Page delivers, or it is how the character is written. I think it is a combination of the two, as I found Bliss to be “blank” at times, not having any expression of emotion, even at times when she’s racing on the roller derby. She was selfish, several times over – lying to her parents (though I can somewhat understand this), but she also leaves Pash behind countless times, and even forgets her when Pash is hauled off by the police. Why do we care that Bliss is the fastest of all the Scouts (the name of the roller derby team), and it is only three quarters into the movie when she tries to redeem herself, and for this viewer, it was much too late.
One thing I really enjoyed — I have not read the book, so I don’t know if this is what happens in the novel, but I enjoyed what happened between Oliver and Bliss in the end, as it was very different than typical teen romances.
Many people would argue with me, as Ellen Page acts the roles that are given to her well, just like Kristen Stewart, in which they play those “edgy” indie girls the best. I’d like to see Page branch out and try something else before I make a judgement on her.
I’m not sure if I would completely recommend this film as the connection the audience may make with Bliss is never fully realized, and I think this is where the movie fails. All the supporting characters are loveable though, with tons of personality. However, there are many that would disagree, and as always, make your own judgement. The audience seemed fairly appreciative of the film, so I would think it’s worth watching, especially for the roller derby aspect. It was by far the most exciting scenes. As a result of a mix of entertaining characters and fun storyline, I’d recommend it.
2.5 scouts / 5 scouts