The Attempted Review of Whip It

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 2:16 PM

What it's All About... Ellen Page plays Bliss, another girl with a terrible name, who lives in the crappy little town of Bodeen, Texas. The only highlight of her dull life involves heading down to Austin to shop and experience 'the big city'. If living in a small town isn't bad enough Bliss is also forced into competing in beauty pageants by her mother. As is usually the case Bliss is looking for someway to rebel so she can discover who she really is and emerge from the shadow of her mother's expectations. Bliss finds this in the form of roller derby, a fast paced, rough and tumble sport that the city of Austin loves. She becomes friends with the girls from the Hurl Scouts, possibly the worse team ever to play the sport, and is invited to the teams try outs. Unfortunately for Bliss she has to lie about her age, she's only a 17 year old high school student and you need to be 21 to play, while going behind her parents back to compete in the sport. It appears the lieing is worth it though as Bliss becomes a huge hit in the world of roller derby, the team manages to move up the table to the championship game, she manages to meet the cute boy she wanted and makes a whole bunch of new friends in her new life. As is always the case though her two worlds eventually collide as her parents find out about the roller derby and she is left with a choice, pursue her mothers dreams of competing in beauty pageants or her own dreams of playing in the roller derby championship.

What it Did Well... For Drew Barrymore's directorial debut she handles the film quite well. It is rather depressing viewing though for all us untalented people, seeing someone who can act also direct a successful film. It zips along at a nice pace considering the film is 111 minutes long which I thought was surprisingly long. Barrymore has a nice split between the action on the roller derby rink and the other facets of Bliss's life so it's not just a feel good sports movie there is a lot of depth and a variety of issues are able to come to the forefront. I liked the way she was able to show the culture and lifestyle behind the roller derby scene as well but then there's also the issue of growing up in a small town, a father who clearly wishes he had boys, competing ideals of what it is to be a woman, coming of age elements and the pains of romance all tightly packaged together in one coherent film.

The acting is also superb. Page is brilliant as Bliss the quirky, alternative girl who needs a place to fit in. It's a performance that equals her role in Juno as she just seems so natural on the screen doing what she's doing and once again she's portraying a very strong character. Her parents, particularly her mother, are also great as they struggle to understand their daughter and her actions as she gets older and her mother's reaction when she finds out Bliss has had sex is just brilliant, she leaves the room, grabs a cigarette and says "that's a lot to process". They are very believable parents who are trying to do what's best for their daughter. The people associated with roller derby, the Hurl Scouts and their coach Leo, are also very good as for the most part they can develop some sort of personality. There are the strong silent sisters, the semi-motherly Maggie Mayhem, the skillful Bloody Holly and the completely insane Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore). 

The film is also very funny and heart warming. The best comedic moments come from the roller derby team who pull out many one-liners that feel very natural and unforced. Meanwhile the moments with Bliss and her family display some much needed emotion from the characters, Bliss and her mother are both allowed to be fragile and vulnerable which is a nice change of pace from the strong characters they play.

What it Didn't... The film worked with an overly predictable formula that was full of cliches. For starters casting Ellen Page as the quirky, alternative kid was obvious so you were not really surprised by anything she said or did. Also there were times when you could so easily pick what was going to happen next, you knew Bliss's life was going to reach a peak of happiness and then her boyfriend, friend, family and roller derby relationships were all going to come pretty much crashing down. If it wasn't for the brilliant acting by Page in her now typical role and the work of the collaborative cast then this predictability would have been a major downfall for the film.

Also there were a few minor issues that just bugged me. Like I had difficulty working out what era this was supposed to be set in. Bodeen just looks like it's stuck in time with the fashion and cars on display but then Bliss's mum pulled out a relatively new looking mobile phone. It wasn't a huge issue but it just left me a little confused as to when it was supposed to be set. Also Bliss makes a point of saying she hasn't skated in years before the trials and we see her practice once before the trials and she is this amazing skater. It was just a little bit unrealistic although Ellen Page sure can skate.

I was also disappointed that the film didn't contain the Devo song 'Whip It' although for the most part the rest of the soundtrack was very good containing songs from The Ramones, The Strokes, The Breeders and Kings of Leon.

Memorable Moment... I think the scene where Bliss returns home after thinking her boyfriend has cheated on her is the most memorable scene for me. Bliss is sitting there eating away her sorrows when her mum comes home. The two manage to have a heartfelt conversation about the pain of your first heartbreak and like I said before the mum's reaction to hearing about Bliss having sex is just classic.

What it All Means... Whip It is an extremely fun film that will leave you laughing the whole time. It's got its predictable and cliche moments but for the most part you can overlook them and really enjoy the performances from Page and the rest of the cast. I'm giving Whip It a 7 and a half out of 10.



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