by Emily Moulder, published on April 7, 2010|
She might have started out as little Gertie in E.T. but Drew Barrymores a big girl now and after a decade of producing, shes finally stepped behind the camera to direct Whip It.
Though Drew hasnt given up on acting just yet, after seeing Whip It I hope she sticks with her new vocation because shes actually pretty good at it.
Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a misfit teen whos fed up with small town life in Bodeen, Texas. Her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden) constantly tries to get Bliss involved in beauty pageants but indie-chick Bliss has other ideas. When she discovers a roller derby in Austin with all-girl teams, Bliss tries out to be a member of The Hurl Scouts outfit.
Lead by Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), the Hurl Scouts are the worst players in the roller derby league, but Maggie sees potential in Bliss who just happens to be lightning on a pair of skates. When the time comes to get tough, Bliss turns into Babe Ruthless and becomes the star of the show along with her team mates Rosa Sparks, Smashley Simpson, Bloody Holly and The Manson Sisters.
After catching the eye of local rocker Oliver (Landon Pigg) and winning matches with the girls, Bliss soon becomes distracted and struggles to keep everything a secret from her mother.
The movie feels like its trying to be three different types of film all at once: a typical sports movie, a teen comedy and a family drama. These styles dont always gel together properly in the story, leaving the overall movie feeling a little uneven. With a cast made up of some really good comic actors, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon, Alia Shawkat, Juliette Lewis and Barrymore herself, I was surprised to see the comedy side of the film left mostly in the cold.
The scenes of the Hurl Scouts doing their thing at the roller derby are a lot of fun to watch and will undoubtedly have a lot of girls reaching for their skates as the colourful characters are at their best when theyre throwing punches, slamming each other to the ground and racing around the rink.
The dramatic nuances of Whip It are the strongest and there are some touching scenes between Ellen Page and Marcia Gay Harden. Bliss emotional pleas to her mother feel very believable and keep the film grounded admist scenes of the roller derby chaos.
With a cool concept and a great cast, Barrymore knocks it out of the park with here. If theres ever a sequel, Ill be there with skates on.
Rating: 4 out of 5