(Published on Rushes Online Film Magazine)
Whip It is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, based on Sue Cross’s novel, Derby Girl. The story follows Bliss Cavendar, played by Ellen Page (Juno), an unpopular teen from a boring town who doesn’t know where her life is going.
The film opens by introducing Bliss as an out-of-place character straight away. She walks onto the stage of a beauty pageant with dyed, bright blue hair as her mother stares in disappointment from the crowd. Her mother, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), is one of those American Mom’s who forces her “psychotic idea of 50’s womanhood” down her children’s throats. When she takes Bliss shopping, she refuses to buy her a pair of boots when she realises that the pretty vases she has been admiring around the shop are actually bongs. This is when a group of tattooed women with brightly coloured hair and ‘alternative’ clothing skate into the shop. Bliss’ mind fills with excitement as she discovers the roller derby team.
The film has a subtle comedy that’s not constantly throwing jokes in your face, but uses small comments to make you giggle which compliment the film really well; comments towards coach Razor’s tiny denim shorts and the teams excitement of coming second place, “You guys came in second out of two teams… Yeah, let’s celebrate mediocrity! That’s fantastic.”
There is one scene that really sticks out in the film – An underwater love scene. Bliss and her boyfriend Oliver (Landon Pigg), kiss and take off each other’s clothes at the bottom of a swimming pool, and we can all guess what happens next. The scene is just impressive. It’s something you can go away and appreciate Barrymore’s newly found talent for, as it adds to the film’s original quality.
To define the film is a tricky thing to do. The situations that Bliss goes through are very cliché. Bliss has lied about her age to join the team and has told her parents that she is spending this extra time out of the house studying for an SAT class. Of course, her lies will unfold by the end of the film. But the environment and scenes around Bliss in the film are so original. It’s not every day you see a bunch of 30-year-old women dressed in school uniforms, skating around a track whilst elbowing their competitors in the face.