WHIP IT is a pretty conventional, but charming, coming-of-age flick directed by Drew Barrymore and starring JUNO's Ellen Page. It feels old fashioned - in the way the sports movies and coming-of-age dramas used to be, before they got satirised in movies like DODGEBALL. The kitsch feel stems partly from the deliberately down-at-heel suburban production design, and from the fact that the heroine is torn between her mother's obsession with beauty pageants and her own attraction to Roller Derby - and both seem anachronistic. But it also stems a little from the straightforward narrative arc, the fact that the happy ending is never really in doubt and the rather simplistic shooting style. The fact that this is Barrymore's debut directorial feature shows in her rather unimaginative handling of the Roller Derby scenes in particular.
Ellen Page plays seventeen-year old, suburban, Bliss Cavendar. Her mother, seeing it as a route out of town, makes her enter beauty pageants where she has to extol traditional feminine virtues. But Bliss decides to rebel by lying about her age and joining a Roller Derby league. She meets tough women with real lives, learns to be aggressive, and gets her first boyfriend. But, as in the way of these three act coming of age flick (see WAYNE'S WORLD, even), Bliss ends up pissing off everyone who loves her - her best friend, her mum, her dad, and potentially her team. Of course, in the movies, as opposed to real life, when you have a bratty teen "coming of age", everyone is remarkably forgiving and loving.
So, all in all, you have to ask what really is the point of WHIP IT? A movie so familiar it feels like a US version of BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM subbing roller debry for soccer.
Additional tags: Robert Yeoman, Dylan Tichenor, The Section Quartet, Juliette Lewis, Andrew Wilson, Landon Pigg, Alia Shawkat, Zoe Bell, Ari Graynor, Carlo Alban, Daniel Stern, Shauna Cross
WHIP IT played Toronto 2009 and was released in 2009/2010. It is available on DVD and on iTunes.