Whip It Reviewed
While Drew Barrymore didn’t necessarily “whip it real good” in her directorial debut, Whip It, starring Ellen Page (Juno), is a predictable, yet entertaining look at the fascinating sport of roller derby.
Page plays a teenager by the name of Bliss, who is trapped in the suburbs of Austin with a sweet, but forceful mother who shoves beauty pageants down her daughter’s throat as a way to perpetuate her own, faded youth. In the classic coming-of-age fashion, Page rejects her parents’ wishes and trades in her pageants gown for fishnets and skates, to secretly join Austin’s roller derby team, the Hurl Scouts. She takes on the game name of Babe Ruthless and accordingly tears up the rink to the delight of her fellow teammates and hundreds of fans.
It is, in fact, Barrymore’s minor character, Smashley Simpson, that provides a mild undertone of inane, screwball comedy that threatens to ruin the otherwise well thought-out plot sequence and character development. The running time is several minutes longer than it should be (how many times can you enthusiastically watch the same gals circle the same skating rink?). And a flawed script restrained Page from expressing the witty, sardonic character we fell in love with in Juno, however she still managed to carry the film, with her impeccable comedic timing and expressionistic face.
The authentic myriad of action shots is the real highlight of this film. In fact, Barrymore a point to have the actors do all of their own stunts. “I didn’t want any cheesy cuts to the back of a bad wig,” said Barrymore. Page and others studied roller derby and trained on skates for months before starting production on the film.
A gaggle of girls from New York’s Gotham Roller Derby league attended the screening, donning their league jackets. “Roller derby was depicted well,” relayed Ani Dispanko, a member of the Bronx Gridlock team. “I hope a lot more people go out to enjoy derby after this film. Derby is coming back.”
Barrymore showed up after the screening for a surprise Q&A. “This was really me saying I've totally unzipped and put my whole heart into this film,” she said with conviction.
Whip It succeeded in that it evoked in me a desire to go see a live roller derby event. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t catch this one in the theatres, ladies, as it makes for a fine Tuesday-night rental.