Whip It

Year: 2009
Production Co: Flower Films
Director: Drew Barrymore
Writer: Shauna Cross
Cast: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Kirsten Wiig, Daniel Stern, Alia Shawkat, Jimmy Fallon

A great film for Drew Barrymore to cut her directorial teeth on. She keeps herself mostly out of the spotlight, giving gives her more room to concentrate on the tone, she has a great sense of both drama and action (unless that is all the kinetic skating sequences were relegated to a second unit) and it hits the sweet spot right into the middle of cute and serious, heartfelt and fun.

Ellen Page is Juno...sorry, Bliss (yes, it is perhaps time for her try something completely different from teens with vocabularies way beyond their years), frustrated and bored in her anywhere USA Texas hometown, enjoying the love of a supportive if prickly family without really appreciating it.

When a roller derby league comes to the nearby capital Bliss is hooked, sneaking off to lessons and training and becoming one of the stars of the league, finding her calling and a welcome respite from the endless beauty pageants her mother traipses her through.

When her family inevitably finds out the skates hit the fan, and Kirsten Wiig as teammate Maggie Mayhem delivers the best line of the film as she reminds Bliss even though she has a cool new family she shouldn't be so quick to drop her old one. It gives Bliss the impetus to reconcile with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden, giving the movie a huge thespian heft) and make things right.

Barrymore has a good eye for colour and movement, and while not quite Rollerball , the derby scenes are action packed and satisfying. Above all, I was actually really impressed with Alia Shawkat as Pash, Bliss' best friend and co-worker, who was big, natural, so full of life and so beautiful, a far cry from the usual comic sidekick and who exuded passion even when playing dejected.

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