Whip It, wasn't a movie that I had any interest in seeing. Women bashing each other in the face while roller skating - what would be the fun in that? But I got the chance to go to a screening, so I figured, hey, there are worse ways to spend a Monday evening...
Directed by Drew Barrymore and starring Ellen Page (Juno), the first fifteen minutes or so of Whip It were... if not quite bad... then decidedly average. It tells the story of small town girl, Bliss Cavendar, trying to exist in the colourless town of Bodeen, (or as one character accurately put it: "Bodeen?Why?") where the dining highlight, at, her place of work, The Oink Joint, is for customers to eat a big burger so as to get an even bigger burger free. Shoe-horned by her mother, into a world of mindless Beauty Pageants, Bliss finds herself yearning for the more exciting, adrenaline-fuelled world of Roller Derby. It is in this world, that Bliss transforms into Babe Ruthless, finds who she is, falls in love and, ultimately, learns some tough life lessons.
Barrymore skilfully various representations of relationships; Bliss' relationship with her parents - specifically, the often tense one with her mother (a beautifully restrained, Marcia Gay Harden); the friendship with best friend, Pash and also the bond Bliss has with her Roller Derby team-mates, who guide her through the sport, while at the same time encouraging her growth as a person. Then, there's her romance with wannabe rock star Oliver. I love, particularly, that the romance here avoided Hollywood cliché, while at the same time giving the audience a wonderfully poetic seduction sequence which captured very well the weightless feeling of first love. What you don't see, however, is a young girl relinquishing her power to some guy in her life - a message I feel the media should put out there more.
Ellen Page, definitely showed her range as an actress. The role of Bliss - if not a complete departure from her Juno character, in that both were equally independent - was one which required a more subtle display of emotions which she does more that competently.
Criticism of this film? Some of the Roller Derby scenes lacked the energy requisite for building anticipation and excitement when heading towards the climax which ties in with my previous comment about pacing, but that said, Whip It is a good watch and Drew Barrymore certainly doesn't disgrace herself, in this, her debut feature.