And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Whip It

screen capture 204x300 - Whip ItWhip It is a good little chick flick. Sure, it’s predictable and thin on story. But it’s fun – a theatrical joyride on skates. Think Juno meets Roller Derby.

Ellen Page (Juno) plays Bliss Cavendar, a high school teenager who’s stuck in a rut in her small hometown of Bodeen, Texas, where life revolves around beauty pageants, football games and massive pork barbeque at the local Oink Joint. Bliss is a gal in search of something more… and she finds it, with a women’s roller derby league in nearby Austin.

If only it were that simple. But this is a movie, so we need conflict! Here goes: Bliss is only 17, so she has to lie about her age to avoid getting parental consent to skate (after all, she’s supposed to be studying for her SATs and preparing for the next beauty pageant). Her best friend and fellow waitress at the Oink Joint, Pash (Alia Shawkat) watches her back, until Bliss screws up the friendship by taking off with an indie rocker who eventually breaks her heart. And, wouldn’t ya know it, the championship roller derby game is the same day as the year’s most important beauty pageant!

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit facetious with the plot synopsis. Truth is, the best part of this movie is the roller skating – and the peek inside a subculture where a bunch of women with nicknames like Babe Ruthless, Maggie Mayhem, Rosa Sparks, Bloody Holly and Smashlee Simpson can bond and kick butt at the same time.

Whip It is the first feature film directed by Drew Barrymore (a.k.a Smashlee Simpson) and it’s a fine, fun inaugural flick. Marcia Gay Harden turns in a sweet, poignant performance as Bliss’s mother, and Kristen Wiig (of SNL fame) is surprisingly strong as a single mom/roller derby player who takes Bliss under her wing.

Chicks who tend to lean toward romantic comedies/dramas will likely enjoy Whip It. And rooster companions should be appeased by the roller derby action (attractive women in fishnet stockings throwing fists, elbows and body blows. What’s not to like?). You won’t leave the theater thinking “Oscar”. But you will want your very own roller derby nickname. I’m thinking Mainstream Chick-a-Boom-Boom…

1 Comments

  1. Arty Chick, October 4, 2009:

    Ellen Page is really cute and different from the other actresses her age. There is something in her demeanor that is very wise. I think she is an old soul. Sure she plays teenagers who go through all the usual teenage problems– boyfriend troubles, parents who don’t get them, searching for what makes them happy—but she seems to be on the adult side of the line. In Whip It, she plays 17-year-old Bliss whose mother drags her to beauty pageants, but finds her own calling when she and her best friend go looking for boys at a roller derby event.

    Whip It is Drew Barrymore’s debut as a director and if it is any indication, I think she may have a future on the other side of the camera. The film is warm and nicely paced, the performances fun and the camerawork, especially in the roller derby ring, well-done. You are totally there with the Roller girls. You get their love of the sport, no matter how silly it seems. Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem and Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven, the bad girl of the film, are particularly good. Drew Barrymore cast herself as Smashley Simpson, one tough-ass skater who just loves the physicality of the game and seemed to have a great time. I could have, however, done without Jimmy Fallon essentially playing himself as the roller derby announcer.

    If there is a weak part of this movie it is the script. Adapted by Shauna Cross from her semi-autobiographical “novel” Derby Girl, the story is the usual coming-of-age/sports underdog-does-good story. And there is nothing wrong with that. It just could have been a bit more original.

    Whip It is very entertaining though and I would say that a huge part of it is Ellen Page’s charisma, whatever that is. You like to watch her, falling in love with the guy, learning the ropes, and especially in the roller derby where she comes alive. Whip It has no great messages, no big surprises, but it is thoroughly entertaining. It is a feel good movie and there is nothing wrong with that.

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