Last weekend was pretty intense. I spent most of it in a room at the Maldron Hotel, not unfortunately being pampered, having room service and sleeping, but instead attending an intensive two day TEFL seminar. When I got home on Sunday night my brain was fried and all I wanted to do was chill out and watch a DVD. Cue Whip It.
Whip It is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut and I have been looking forward to seeing it for ages. I’m a fan of Barrymore’s infectious good humour and charisma and while I don’t love her in romcoms, she has been in some more interesting projects recently.
The movie stars Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar, a high school girl from small town Texas who is forced to compete in beauty pagents by her overbearing but well intentioned mother, played by Marcia Gay Harding. Frustrated by her humdrum life, Bliss decides on a whim to attend a roller derby in Austin where she sees the Holy Rollers defeat the Hurl Scouts. By chance she starts talking to one of the players, who encourages her to try out for the team, and as a result Bliss becomes the newest recruit of the Hurl Scouts.
Whip It is a fun, light affair, and it carries a feminist undertone which I liked. When Bliss believes that her musician boyfriend may have been cheating on her, she tells him she doesn’t want to be “that girl”, meaning the passive girl who waits for her philandering boyfriend to reassure her, and when her mother tries to convince her of the benefits of beauty pageants, Bliss tells her that her vision of femininity is psychotic and outdated. Bliss is not a traditional female character and as such she’s a lot more interesting and relatable than a needy idiot whose main goal in life is to get a boyfriend.
I loved the casting in this film. Kristen Wiig’s deadpan delivery is brilliant and I have always adored Juliette Lewis, who is perfectly cast as Iron Maven. Barrymore is also likeable in her small role as Smashley Simpson, a ditzy yet hotheaded member of the team. However the one thing I didn’t love about the movie was Ellen Page. I don’t find Page to be a particularly dynamic actress or an interesting performer to watch and I found that I was more interested in practically every single character other than her throughout the film. Consequently I remain completely unconvinced of her ability to headline a movie.
The soundtrack is particularly good, featuring tracks from artists as diverse as Dolly Parton, Peaches, Cut Chemist and The Breeders. While Whip It won’t necessarily change your world, it is a fun way to while away a couple of hours.