Ellen Page & Marcia Gay Harden in Whip It
Ellen Page & Marcia Gay Harden
The whip is a slingshot-type maneuver in roller derby, where you're flung by a teammate straight into traffic and, with luck, past it.
"Whip It" is different.
It's not designed primarily for the heterosexual male gaze (though it's certainly fun for both genders and all persuasions).
Drew Barrymore's feature directorial debut runs on an easygoing mixture of cliches and grrrl-power or, rather, younnnng-womannn
power, and its cast operates on a very high hangout factor, meaning just that: They're good company. (It's great to see
In placing its young heroine, played by
The alternative, as Page's Bliss Cavendar says to her mother at a notably ham-fisted moment, buys into a "psychotic idea of '50s womanhood."
The movie is set in Bodeen, a fictional flyspeck burg, and
Very consciously, as guided by
Bliss is a reluctant pageant participant following her mom's design for living at story's outset. On a shopping trip to
Bliss sneaks off to team tryouts, and though she's small, she's also promisingly fast and willing to lie about her underage status. The script labors to keep her double life a secret on the home front.
That's the subtext.
The surface text arranges a coming-of-age affair between Bliss and a musician (
Barrymore's direction is generous to a fault, and there are times when you wish "Whip It" simply moved faster, on and off the track.
It succeeds because of the emotional rather than comic payoffs, such as a late scene between Page and Harden, where daughter and mother, after a rough patch, hit on an unexpectedly serious subject. These two pros act the daylights out of the material in the nicest way, and they make synthetic goods feel like silk. The way Page's Bliss walks around in a daze, newly blossoming, ever-watchful and barely able to process what's hit her, she captures that first-love sensation of being underwater -- without the ballet.
"Whip It" Movie Trailer
The directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, stars Ellen Page (Juno) as Bliss, a rebellious Texas teen who throws in her small town beauty pageant crown for the rowdy world of roller derby. Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Pollock) plays Bliss disapproving mother, while Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live) and Juliette Lewis (Old School) play roller-derby stars.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material).
Running time: 1:51.
Directed by Drew Barrymore; written by
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