Review: Whip It

Whip It | Drew Barrymore, 2009

Whenever someone like Drew Barrymore, a person who has had a popular acting career for many years and has worked with many good directors, make their directorial debuts, I anticipate it to see if they have learned something from all the people they have worked with. Barrymore’s hopefuly-career-changing performance in Grey Gardens added to my anticipaton for this. In the end, she delivered with Whip It, but it is far from perfect.

Ellen Page plays Bliss, a girl from a small town who mom makes her participate in beauty pageants. She, obviously, despises them, yet she knows of nothing else she can do with her life. One day, she goes to a roller derby match, and she decides to try out although she has to lie about her age. She does try out, makes the team, and make lead it to a championship. However, she has to keep this secret otherwise her parents will not be pleased.

The main problem with the movie is its story and script. The story is like almost every coming-of-age sports movie that we have seen throughout the years. A good script could have made this passable, but some of the characters are not well developed enough to care about them, although they were interesting. Also, some of the plot devices used to make the movie go along just don’t work or feel awkward.Even with all the problems of the script, Barrymore manages to make it entertaining. She handles the derby scenes very well, as well as some of the dialogue scenes. However, the editing was a bit too rough and slowed the movie down a little bit. She does have potential and hopefully she find a better vehicle for her next directing effort. She has won half the battle though, as she showed that she can get good performances out of her actors.

Ellen Page is as good as she has always been. Marcia Gay Harden, Drew Barrymore, and Maeby Blu…I mean Alia Shawkat are good in the supporting cast. However, there are two performances that could have been much more if their characters had been developed more. Kristen Wiig finaly gets to do a character that is not stupid or creepy with Maggie Mayhem.  The other one is Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven, a woman who discovered her true calling late and wants to do anything to enjoy her time. Both of these performances are great, and their characters have interesting backgrounds but those backgrounds are not explored enough. I do believe that if Shauna Cross, the writer, had taken her time with these characters there would have been some awards buzz for both performances.

Whip It is a fun movie that is a good enough directorial debut for Drew Barrymore. It could have been much more, but Barrymore and the performances helped the movie be what it is.

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