Although it contains a few clichés, Whip It is a charming comedy that entertains its audience. The movie is based on a novel written by Shauna Cross, entitled Derby Girl.
Cross also wrote the screenplay, in which she created many entertaining moments and hilarious one-liners. In Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, she emerges as a sensitive director who, despite a tendency to make some overly romantic choices, knows how and when to let an emotional moment linger on the screen. Although the movie is slow and predictable at times, Barrymore does a good job at combining comedy and drama to make the film an enjoyable experience.
One of the main focuses of the movie is roller derby. Roller derby is an American sport where two teams of five players skate around an oval track. The object of roller derby is to score as many points as possible. In order to score points, both teams create a jam formation in which four of the members of one team create a line.
The last member of each team is called a jammer and must break through that line, by knocking the defenders down, to score points. Fans of roller derby will most likely understand what is going on right away, but audiences who are not fans of the sport will catch on as the movie progresses.
Ellen Page (Juno) plays the main character, Bliss Cavender, who is being pressured by her mother to participate in beauty pageants. Reluctant to do so, she discovers the world of roller derby and instantly falls in love with the sport. As a result of being too afraid to stand up to her mother, Bliss tells her mother that she is taking SAT classes when in reality she is participating in the derby league.
Bliss’ teammates are not too fond of her at first, but they accept her after they realize how talented she is at roller blading. Throughout the course of Whip It, Bliss strains her relationship with her best friend Pash, when she pushes her away to hang out with her new teammates.
The rest of the film explores Bliss’ relationship with her teammates, friends and family. Her roller derby experience is much like a coming of age process. During the movie she becomes more independent, outgoing and she begins to gain control over her life. Bliss is just an average teenage girl who wants to hang out with friends, have crushes on boys and have fun doing what makes her happy.
Page is excellent in the lead role. She makes her character genuine and believable, and is very amusing during comedic situations. Bliss’ mother, Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River) is very convincing as a mother who wants her daughter to follow in her footsteps as a beauty pageant queen. Some of the best scenes in the feature Bliss and her mother arguing and trying to understand the decisions the other is making. Harden and Page make their scenes vivid and interesting, while creating an authentic and complicated mother-daughter bond. Another good supporting role is Kristen Wiig, who plays Maggie Mayhem, one of Bliss’s roller derby teammates and mentor. Wiig’s character is given a lot more to do in this film than in her more recent film Extract, allowing her to prove her talents as an actress.
Along with directing, Drew Barrymore also takes on a supporting role in the film. Barrymore plays Smashly Simpson, another one of Bliss’ teammates. She is surprisingly funny and charming as the team idiot.
The movie does have flaws. It is predictable at times and yes, most of the audience might know how the ending will conclude before it comes. However, despite this flaw, Whip It has enough substance and entertainment value to keep audiences interested.