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» InTheNews.co.uk Review - Whip It

Directed by Drew Barrymore, out April 9th in cinemas, starring Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Lewis, running time 111 mins.
by Lewis Bazley, published on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 12:25

What's it all about?

Out of place in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas, Bliss Cavendar (Page) goes along with her mother's (Harden) beauty pageant dreams but knows she isn't meant for the world of tiaras and fake tan. After a chance encounter with some competitors in the Austin roller derby Bliss finds a world in which she truly belongs and soon becomes a star of the league under the name Babe Ruthless. But can she maintain her double life?

As an example...

"I'm supposed to buy you shoes from a headshop? Does that strike you as responsible parenting?" - Brooke Cavendar

"Fine. 'Cos shoes are a gateway drug." - Bliss

"I'm Maggie Mayhem." - Maggie

"I'm Bliss... but I could change that." - Bliss

"Yeah... you'll need to change that." - Maggie

"If you're still having trouble keeping track of the game, don't worry - you're not the only one." - Jimmy

What the others say

"[It's] hard not to be moved by the irrepressible sense of fun and optimism on display here." - Lucy Barrick, Radio Times

"Yes, the movie has cliches. Yes, it all leads up to a big game. Yes, there is a character's validating appearance near the end. Yes, and so what? The movie is miles more intelligent than most of the cream-of-wheat marketed to teenage girls." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

So is it any good?

Don't be taken in by the bubblegum design of the Whip It advertising campaign. Drew Barrymore's first film behind the camera - though she steals countless scenes as the superbly-named Smashley Simpson - is certainly more sentimental than you might imagine from a look at the frequently brutal world of roller derby. But among the big hits, fishnets and eyeliner of the derby track is an involving look at identity and ambition that Barrymore handles with aplomb. Whip It wheels through some familiar territory, be it small town ennui, the burdens of parental expectation and teenage heartbreak, but does so with exuberance and joy. And with a cast who excel in even the smallest of roles - Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat and a startlingly chubby Daniel Stern the highlights - it's a ride you're happy to join, whether you've seen it before or not.

Page's talent is no secret but her work as Bliss confirms why Christopher Nolan's selected her for a major part in Inception - while Bliss is as whipsmart and alienated as Juno, there's a sweetness to the roller derby queen that was largely absent from the pregnant teen and she spars superbly with the alluring Kristen Wiig and Harden as the disappointed mother. There's also a great deal to praise in Barrymore's direction, with an underwater love scene especially impressive, though many of the roller derby scenes don't quite exhilarate as frequently as you'd hope.

But any shortcomings, whether in plot or style, are more than made up for by the immense sense of enjoyment on offer, with authentic friendships among the female cast making Bliss's - or Babe's - journey one that rolls away with your heart.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Source: www.inthenews.co.uk

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