by Michael Shelton, published on April 12, 2010|
A film starring Ellen Page, directed by Drew Barrymore and all about roller derby. Three things that spell out kooky American indie flick. But dont let put you off. Although not in any way groundbreaking Whip It is great fun and hard to dislike.
In a small Texas town Bliss Cevandar (Page) sees an escape from her life of waitressing, football and beauty pageants when she attends a roller derby league in nearby Austin. It turns out she has some skills on the quad skates and becomes Babe Ruthless, the best jammer in the league.
The story could be any tale of high school teenage rebellion, except here characters are named Maggie Mayhem and Smashley Simpson! Yet its refreshing to see a movie with so many strong female characters. For parents this is a resoundingly better movie to take your daughter to than any number of Miley Cyrus flicks.
Dont worry if you know nothing about Roller Derby as the rules are explained and in fact they are not that important. Its an American sport where the enjoyment and entertainment (and some big hits) are more important than the winning.
Ellen Page shows that she can hold a film together without the smart dialogue of Juno and keeps Bliss on the right side of sympathetic.From the supporting cast Marcia Gay Harden, as a former beauty queen mother trying to push Bliss into becoming the next generation is excellent. She forms a great double act with Daniel Stern (where has he been?), as Bliss father. The roller Derby girls including Juliette Lewis, Eve and a pair of deaf twins reminiscent of the Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot have great fun knocking seven shades ofy crap out of each other.
For a debut effort this is an astonishingly assured debut from Barrymore. Having spent all her life in film has obviously taught her a few things. She keeps the roller derby action fast and furious and composes some wonderful wide angle shots.
Lace up and see it now as I suspect it wont be around long in the UK, which is a shame.