Whip It is the story of Bliss (Ellen Page), a young girl from Bodeen Texas, who finds it hard to blend in with her love of Indie Rock music, her dark hair and pale skin. She is surviving with her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) along her side to laugh at all of the nonsense of the town. She discovers a roller derby league in the town of Austin when out shopping with her mom and decides to make the trip every week to be part of the team.
This story is about two main things: one, discovering yourself and finding something that makes you happy and two, family and how important that support is in a person’s life.
Marcia Gay Harden plays the Pageant driven mom whose only goal is to give Bliss a better chance on the stage than she had when she was young. She is tough, but fair and understands having a sense of freedom when it comes to fashion off the stage. She tolerates her daughter’s torn stocking paired with loosely tied combat boots and an 80’s rock t-shirt. Her dad, played by Daniel Stern is not the one wearing the pants in the family but is plenty happy to be surrounded by women in his life. He is proud of his two daughters and will support them in whatever will make them happy.
Bliss is a good girl who does the pageants for her mom, and usually wins them easily until she gets a wild idea to temporarily dye her hair blue and can’t get it out in time. When she convinces her best friend, Pash to lie about attending a high school football game to their parents in order to attend a roller derby game in Austin, she discovers this new world of dirty mouthed, bruised, Gothic, Punk Rock chicks on roller skates, and she feels right at home. Not that she had any experience with this crowd, she just knew that she didn’t fit in back home where all the talk of the town was pageants and football games, and all her peers did for fun was attempt food eating contests for sport at the local diner she and Pash worked at.
We see Bliss go through a montage of training herself to skate again on old Barbie skates and then going to the try outs and asking how to play the game. The rules are explained pretty well for her and us, if you had no idea how to play – like me. She seems to instantly bond with her teammates and there is no jealousy that she is the new kid and already faster than most of them. Even the opposing team played nice off the roller derby ring. Every one just hangs out after games at the announcer’s house, ‘Hot Tub’ Johnny Rocket, played well by Jimmy Fallon. The name is explained in the film. Its a story that could very possibly happen to someone and not be too fabricated. It’s reality based and just down to earth but a lot of fun.
This movie had an all star cast and a great soundtrack. The team itself consisted of Kristin Wiig as Maggie Mayhem, the caring motherly figure of the team, stunt woman Zoe Bell as Bloody Holly, singer Eve as Rosa Sparks, Drew Barrymore as Smashley Simpson, the injury-proned member of the team and Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven, the leader of the rival team. The soundtrack includes tracks by Peaches, The Ramones, The Chordettes and .38 Special, plus more. Even better was the girl power that the story provoked. Not only did I leave the theater wanting to start dying my hair blue again, but I felt on top of the world. In this film, when it comes to a story about girls being best friends or bonding with like-minded girls and becoming close, it embraces friendship and good sportsmanship and doesn’t ruin it for the sake of a good story. I also really enjoyed that it was a powerful statement for women to stand up for themselves with out jumping into the “she must be a lesbian” territory. She was just a girl discovering who she was, and yes, there was a boy involved.
Drew Barrymore had some really great ideas when it came to directing her first film. There is a pool scene that is really pretty. I can’t say it was absolutely needed, but it showed a sense of self esteem in Bliss as she swam with her boyfriend and kissed underwater, slowly removing articles of clothing from each of them. Barrymore even took great detail in all of the clothing and locations, making a very clever choice to use the number 22 on the outfit for Bliss’ girl scout uniform, because this was the fake age she gave to get in the group. There is also a bus scene when she first takes the trip to Austin and watches her world go by and we see that this town will probably never change and how it just isn’t for her.
The only problems I can point out with her directing is that it wasn’t ground moving by any means. It wasn’t the directing that moved the story forward, it was the story. There was also a couple of places that felt rushed or cut together odd, but it wasn’t enough to pull away from the story. The plot was a bit predictable but well worth it for the acting and the good morals installed within. At the beginning of the film, I felt a little confused on what year it was because she was living in a small town and everything was outdated, I thought it was a film that took place years ago, but once you see Austin, Tx you realize that this is present time and she was just living in the past, or the town was.
In the end, I would watch it again and bring my girlfriends and if I had a daughter, bring her too. Ladies, make this a girl’s night out this weekend and see this film.
I give Whip It 4 “bruises are cool”out of 5
by Angela Davis