Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rewatch--Whip It

Or: Juno with roller-skates.

One word to sum it up: Fun

As I have probably said before, in my eyes, Ellen Page will always be Juno. She can perform as another character unbelievably well, but in the back of my mind I have the vision of her in that white and orange striped tee shirt with a prominent baby bump sticking out. This happened to me a lot during Whip It, even though she did an amazingly underrated performance as Bliss Cavendar/Babe Ruthless.

Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) dreams of escaping her tiny Texas truck-stop town. Unfortunately, her devoted, beauty pageant obsessed mother (Marcia Gay Harden) is convinced Bliss can only succeed in life if she wins the crown at the local Miss Blue Bonnet Pageant. In the big city of Austin she discovers a world unlike anything she could ever imagine; roller derby, with its girl-power-meets-punk-rock spirit and its liberating celebration of wild individuality. Inspired by the likes of Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) and feisty Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore), Bliss tries out for a spot on the Hurl Scouts, a rag-tag team of scrappy underdogs. Soon she's trading in gowns and crowns for skits, skates and scrapes becoming her alter ego, Babe Ruthless. Leading a precarious double life as a waitress by day and the fastest thing on eight wheels by night, Bliss is doing things she never dreamed of--including fearlessly facing off with bad-ass rivals like Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) and falling for a boy in a band (Landon Pigg).

Whip It is amazingly cool. I hadn't even heard of roller derby before this movie, and now I am quite keen to try it out. Even though I'm probably too weak and un-coed to even go 30 centimetres in roller skates. While it is predominantly a film about roller derby, it is also a strikingly real teenage film. It's not let down by stereotypes, and it focuses on the relationships that teenagers have with their friends, boyfriends and parents. Bliss is believable, mainly because her life is run by her mother and she is doing things she really isn't happy doing. But once she finds the thing she wants to do, and the thing that she is good at, she is prepared to do anything to keep going. Like lying about her age and later leading a double life (luckily not the Hannah Montana kind).

Drew Barrymore makes a great directorial debut, and she should definitely take time out to direct another film similar to this. She managed to bring together a great cast of mostly women and doesn't let anything get out of hand. The soundtrack she acquired was indie cool, which may cause people to draw comparisons to that of Juno. If anything stands out in this film, it has to be the ensemble of colourful characters, who are really bad-ass, just like their names suggest (ah, Maggie Mayhem, Bloody Holly, Eva Destruction, anyone?). Then comes the sweet and tender look at love, shown through the relationship between Bliss and Oliver. I really and truly hope that if there was a future for this film, those two would get married and have mini roller-derby band kids.

THE VERDICT: Whip It is a strong directorial debut for Barrymore, but more than anything just a fun showcase for roller derby and a real teenage flick. There's something for everyone to relate to in this movie.


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