Whip It is directed by Drew Barrymore and adapted for the screen by Shauna Cross from her own novel, Derby Girl. Barrymore also co-stars alongside Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Jimmy Fallon, Daniel Stern and Landon Pigg.
Bliss Cavendar (Page), is a bored teenage girl stuck in a rut in Bodeen, Texas. Her life consists of working at the "Oink Joint" restaurant and entering beauty contests to please her mother (Harden). Along with her friend Pash (Shawkat), she dreams of escaping to a better life. Then one day during a trip out to Austin, the girls get wind of Roller Derby, a sport for girls played on roller-skates. Intrigued they go and take in a match and Bliss is hooked straight away, it's tough, competitive and even edgy. Telling a lie about her age, Bliss decides to try out for the "Hurl Scouts" and gets a place on the team as "Babe Ruthless". Thanks to her ability the "Scouts" start to turn around their season, however, with a new boyfriend on the scene and her parents unaware of her secret life, Bliss' new found happiness could come crashing down around her.
In spite of some favourable critical assessments, Drew Barrymore's directing debut barely made a dent at the box office. Just about making its money back on World gross, the figures would lend you to believe that the film simply isn't very good. Plot synopsis doesn't suggest anything out of the ordinary, yet another coming-of-age teenager picture, and one that is sports based, and even more formulaic than that, the sports team at the centre of proceedings is an underdog too! Throw into the equation that it's a female based movie and it's not really a film crying out for all demographics: or is it? Barrymore herself was very disappointed with the marketing for her movie, the general feeling being that it was sold as a girls sports love story type picture. She's absolutely right, it was marketed badly, and it barely had a run on the big screen in most countries. Which is a shame because Whip It is a smashing film, a picture that's vibrant, funny and not without dramatic worth; and yes, it's accessible for any age, sex or gender persuasion. Cross' script is fresh and free of filler and the cast all turn in jolly good shows; ranging from the excellent (Page/Gay Harden) to the engaging (Shawkat/Lewis/Wiig) and the funny (Stern/Fallon). OK, so it's not perfect, Barrymore is no Tony Scott when it comes to shooting action (some of the actual derby matches are confusing and not flowing), and maybe a bit more back-story flesh for the other "Hurl Scouts" wouldn't have gone amiss? But these are minor itches at the beginning of what is hoped to be a long career in directing for Madame Barrymore.
With names like Jabba the Slut, Smashley Simpson and Iron Maven, it's evidently a film full of fun vim and vigour. But as great as that is (girls in skirts on skates belting each other around a track), the coming-of-age drama at its core should not be understated either. 8/10
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