Whip It, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, is about a young girl, Ellen Page, who rebels against her oppressive mother by joining a roller derby team. The film is surprisingly funny and portrays women in a positive light, which is a refreshing change for Hollywood.
The audience meets Bliss Cavender (Page) who is participating in a local beauty pageant to please her mother. It is immediately clear that Bliss is not interested in pageants and after accidently dying her hair blue, and disappointing her mother the plot takes off. During a shopping trip, Bliss finds a flyer about the roller derby and decides to sneak out and eventually tries out and makes one of the local teams, The Hurl Scouts. The Hurl Scouts have a losing record. While attending practices and winning games, Bliss begins to find herself and realizes the importance of doing what she loves.
The story, which is based on the novel, Whip It by Shauna Cross is a lovely exploration on being a strong woman and realizing the power that women have within them. The women on the Derby team, each have quirky characteristics that are valuable and lovable.
Page gives a lovely performance and has excellent chemistry with Marcia Gray Harden (Brooke Cavender), who plays Page’s mother. Harden, who audiences have seen play the judgmental woman before, works well with Page. Alia Shawkat, Pash, Bliss’s best friend in the film, provides that smart-ass humor she’s famous for from Arrested Development.
Still Whip It can be described as an ensemble film with winning performances from Kristen Wiig, Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, and Jimmy Fallon. The entire cast are a team of characters who clearly understand the theme of Whip It and reinforce it.
Audiences shouldn’t miss the chance to watch Whip It. It was surprisingly good, and an underground film that isn’t abstract for the sake of abstract. It’s simply a good story, with good performances, and great messages for young girls who are seeking to find themselves.