by Linda McGee, published on April 7, 2010|
Drew Barrymore makes her feature-film directorial debut here with a flick that is light-hearted and easy-watching. Adapted from Shauna Cross' novel of the same name, 'Whip It' tackles girl power, family obligations, small-town mentalities and coming-of-age.
Living in a one-horse-town is becoming increasingly tedious for 17-year-old Bliss (Page). It's tough serving the same people at the same diner every day, having those people fire the same insults at you day after day and then having a mother (Harden) who wants to prove to the town that she can compete with the best of them.
Her chosen way of making this statement is through local beauty pageants, with her teenage daughter a very unwilling participant. See Bliss would rather be wearing biker boots and black eye-liner than getting fitted out in custom-made pastel gowns. She, along with best friend Pash (Shawkat), dreams of getting out of this town and away from the socially-awkward place that she inhabits every day.
One night, after lying to her parents about her whereabouts, Bliss pops along to a roller derby and gets her calling. Digging her Barbie roller-skates out of her closet she begins to entertain the notion that she could be one of the bad girls who raises hell at the derbies. So she breaks the rules and signs up to the Hurl Scouts team even though she's too young to take part. She's also a little bit too delicate and polite but that's something that her teammates can fix. And so Bliss discovers a whole new world, the real world, complete with boys, alcohol and staying out all night. And with her new roller pals (who include Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis and Eve) she finds a sense of belonging.
Ellen Page is charming as the gutsy, yet worldly-naïve, Bliss. How she can still play teenagers so convincingly is a wonder, but she can. There are also some great support performances from Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern, as her opposites-attract parents, and Kristen Wiig, as her mentor and shoulder-to-cry-on, Maggie Mayhem.
'Whip It' doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't - it's just a tame, chuckle-worthy, little film. It won't change your world but there are plenty of moments that might put a smile on your face.
Rating: 3 out of 5