Published Oct 01, 2009On a basic level, I like Drew Barrymore's Whip It because I like Bliss, its lead character. She's a misfit high-school student in a small Texas town who lies about her age to join a roller derby team in Austin without telling her parents. And considering how much time she spends on this secret hobby (round-trip travel, competitions, practice, social events), these must be the most neglectful screen parents this side of Antichrist.
I like Bliss because she's a fundamentally good and kind person, loving of her parents and friends, and excited by her new hobby, but three-dimensional enough to occasionally be selfish, short-sighted and, well, a teenager.
I also like Bliss because of Ellen Page's performance, which does something subtle: from the early scenes where Bliss is quiet and insecure to the climax, Page creates a character that comes out of her shell and grows as a person, but in a measured and believable way ― she ends the film a wiser, more confident person but still the same person. With Juno, Hard Candy, The Tracey Fragments and now this film, Page as established herself as one of the best working actresses.
The screenplay by Shauna Cross (based on her novel, Derby Girl) follows the Robert McKee screenwriting formula so closely that you'll be able to set your watch to most of the plot developments. Will the big roller derby competition take place the same night as the beauty pageant Bliss's mother is so invested in? And, oh no, after Bliss admits her real age to a police officer and walks out of frame will the audience realize that the villainous Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) was listening the whole time, a fiendish smirk adorning her face?
Within the confines of its deeply predictable formula, Whip It is likeable, pleasant and generally funny, and I especially liked the roller derby scenes, where in many shots we can clearly see Page, Barrymore and the other actresses doing many of their stunts.
I had an agreeable time at Whip It but let me say this: during the end credits we see crewmembers' names and caricatures printed in colourful, kitsch-punk colours and scored to pounding music. Interspersed between are fragments of deleted scenes, bloopers and miscellaneous bits of high-spirited footage. I wish Whip It was as fun and free-spirited as its credits. (Fox)