Sunday 11 April 2010

Review: Whip It

Year: 2009 (U.K. release 2010)
Director: Drew Barrymore
Screenplay: Shauna Cross
Starring: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Jullette Lewis, Eve, Alia Shawkat

Synopsis is here

Drew Barrymore's directional debut unfortunately only reached #6 in the U.S box office when it was released. It's takings in the U.S, a mere $13 million. This summer the Sex in the city movie sequel will be unleashed to an army of women and will easily top the charts. It's a sad state of affairs that something so fundamentally shallow, so irritatingly vapid will be watched by females of all ages, while Whip It; a film that truly believe there's more to women than just shoes, cocktails and men has been seen by hardly anyone.

Made by women (both screenwriter and director), for women, Whip It is a warming tale about a young girl who is looking to find her place in the world. She knows it's not with the beauty pageants and the almost repressed 50's ideals that her mother clings on to and it's certainly not with her dead end dinner job she partakes in when not at school. So what is it? She spies a poster for Roller Derby poster and believes that this sport may the thing for her.

While the film is formulaic and there's nothing special about the actual story, Barrymore makes sure that there's more going on within the film than Bliss moving from A to B. This is a film full of strong females defined by more than a wedding (Bride Wars, 27 Dresses), a man (sex in the city) or otherwise. These are women with real character, women that base their actions due to who they are, not because the "script tells them" or because they get a chiseled hunk at the end.

No this is a film about women who not only wish to buck social norms but also defend them. It's no surprise that some of the films strongest moments are when it focuses on the central family particularly through Page's neatly restrained Bliss and her forceful yet loving mother played by the wonderful Marcia Gay Harden. The tug of war battle of ideals works because it's not simply labeled in black and white. We can see from BOTH sides why they fight for what they want and we care about the characters because they care about each other.

Whip It also works because of it's humor, which is drawn from the characters because of who they are. Barrymore's small role as Smashley Simpson can be considered as a great example. The idea of a woman as cute as Barrymore becoming a screaming harpy, every time she's wronged on the pitch is something that's not only funny but something that stems from the characters passion of the game she plays, as well as herself.

Whip it works because quite simply it's sweet in nature and honest in execution. It's story may be complacent but there's not a shred of manipulation within the movie. The films performances are all watchable that even Zoe Bell who was god awful in Death Proof is good fun here. The eclectic soundtrack fits the story and for those who hated Juno and expected the same thing just because it stars the same main actress, will also be pleasantly surprised by the lack of sass.

I must once again stress how upset I am that this film is being slept on. After film after film of tiresome rom-coms that bring nothing to the female table other than another entry into empty headed, moronic materialism. Along comes a film that wants girls to make a stand on their own terms, that's watched by no one. Is it true that miserable, glittery stalkers and four rich, vapid, slags are the only thing the female audience want when they go to the cinema? Box-office figures seem to say so.