Whip It (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 111 minutes
Starring: Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig
Director: Drew Barrymore
When I first heard about this movie I was skeptical. Drew Barrymore & roller derby? I'll pass. But then the trailer came out (I'm really influenced by trailers. Some would argue that I'm a trailer whore. I'll get to that later...) and it really turned me around from uninterested to I really want to check it out on opening day. It doesn't hurt that a lot of the movie was filmed in Detroit and Drew Barrymore came to the skating center right next to my apartment complex to promote this movie. Yes, I did get a glimpse of Barrymore, but from a distance and she's extremely tiny.
So when I first found out about free screenings, I had to go and I'm tempted to go again on Saturday. Not only because they're handing out free t-shirts, but the movie was actually really, really good.
The movie's based on a young adult novel (which I read and adore) about Bliss Cavendar, a too-hip for her small Texas town 17 year-old. Bliss wants out of Bodeen, Texas and out of her mother's stifling, beauty pageant grip that has consumed her whole childhood and teenage life. Enter fate: a flyer for an upcoming bout between two Texas roller derby teams that happens to spike her interest. She goes with her best friend, Pash and her life is changed forever. She quickly dons the skates and tries out for the team. But being 17 isn't exactly Roller Derby friendly, so she quickly lies about her age. Obviously, that will come to bite her in the ass later. It's a coming of age tale that's both very real and very funny. I'd compare it to Adventureland in how dorky and sweet both Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg play their characters. Bliss knows what she wants, but is too afraid to stand up to her mother, played by Marcia Gay Harden, who has a knack for playing overbearing mothers.
I really dug this movie, it's got a lotta heart and real, genuine teenage moments and the women are tough and fiery, but way sexy and cool. It's also pretty funny - Jimmy Fallon provides some good color commentary as the announcer during the games and Andrew Wilson puts on a great performance as the head coach of the Hurl Scouts (yeah, roller derby has some fun names). Look out for this guy, because if he lands some roles in high profile movies, he's got the talent to be really, really good. Also, Kristen Wiig is way talented, too. She was really funny but had her share of really touching moments as a single mother who loves to cause some mayhem (pun intended) on the rink as her alter ego, Maggie Mayhem.
As for Drew Barrymore and her directorial debut, she definitely knocked this out of the park. It was just a good, refreshing take on teenage comedies and coming of age tales. It didn't rewrite the book on the genre, but it felt more organic and real. And the whole movie really did justice to roller derby, a fascinating sport with which I became intimately known with after watching A&E's series, Rollergirls. It's a great send up of the sport and the women involved.
There's a sneak preview (and free t-shirts!) this Saturday and I definitely advise you to go check it out, otherwise you'll have to wait until October 2 to see this one. And believe me, it's worth it!
Rating: See It!