Directed by: Drew Barrymore | 111 minutes | drama, sports | Actors: Elliot Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Jimmy Fallon, Alia Shawkat, Eve, Zoe Bell, Ari Graynor, Eulala Scheel, Andrew Wilson, Carlo Alban, Landon Pigg, Kristen Adolfi, Rachel Piplica, Daniel Stern, Sam Zikakis, Sarah Habel, Shannon Eagen
Bliss Cavendar (Elliot Page) is a teenager longing for some excitement in her life. She doesn’t find that in the beauty pageants in which she participates at the insistence of her mother, no matter how furiously she dyes her locks blue in order to stun the jury. By coincidence she discovers roller derby, a rock-hard roller skating race in which two teams of scantily clad ladies compete against each other. Bliss has the necessary balls and proves to be surprisingly fast and agile on wheels, but because roller derby isn’t a sport that parents generally love, she keeps her forays to the skating rink a secret. That goes well for a while, until it appears that the derby final of the finals falls on the same night as an important beauty pageant.
On paper, “Whip It” follows the pattern of just about every sports movie ever made, but on screen the film turns out surprisingly well. This is mainly due to the attractive cast, which splashes girl power courtesy of Elliot Page (“Juno”), Juliette Lewis (“Natural Born Killers”) and Drew Barrymore (“Charlie’s Angels”). Barrymore took place not only in front of, but also behind the camera for this film, and knows how to convey the enthusiasm she has patented for to the other actors. Page is once again given the chance to star as a rebellious teenager, with supporting roles also coming off, especially those of Bliss’ parents (Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern), coach (Andrew Wilson) and captain (Kristen Wiig). In addition, the scenario manages to avoid the worst clichés by not opting for a happy ending on all fronts.
There is a lot to be said about “Whip It”. The film is very reminiscent of “Juno”, and not only because of the presence of Page. The films also resemble each other in terms of appearance and theme. A teenager with an adult sense of responsibility, parents who have good intentions but miss the mark now and then, fun family discussions; they are elements that you will find in both “Whip It” and “Juno”. However, there are worse movies to draw inspiration from, so similarity isn’t a big deal. You can also question the moral that it is very liberating to get into conflict with other girls. We see Bliss change from a softie into a tough chick who also physically bites off her outside the derby track. As if you cannot stand up for yourself without violence.
Fortunately, “Whip It” was made with so much fun that you will love to ignore these flaws. If you also add two songs from The Go! Hearing Team blaring through the speakers of the skating rink, the film cannot really go wrong. Barrymore has made a good move making her directorial debut with a project that is just right for her and she’s honored that she gives someone else the space to steal the show. Tough guys support each other, and that’s how it should be.