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Whip It (2009)

Directed by Drew Barrymore Novel and Screenplay by Shauna Cross

    Has everyone discovered at this point that I seem to enjoy most Actors/Actresses as long as they’re consistent in some way? Or at least, they have to really try to mess things up in order for me not to favor them in some aspect. Which I bring up because I seem to be one of the few Barrymore fans or always find myself defending that, for some reason. When I was younger I would read script books for films or biography’s on whichever Actor I liked at the time. So after finding out a bit more of what she went through in “Little Girl Lost,” I’ve always been glad to see it not completely ruin her life, like one may assume. She’s clearly a goofy girl and not always funny but what she lacks in comedic timing, she delivers in representing women being independent and strong-minded on their own. Plus, she usually ends up surprising me every so often which was the case in this, her directorial debut. It follows a novel by a former skater with the LA Derby Dolls who went by the name Maggie Mayhem. Though while most of the other names used in the film were inspired from actual teams, the only legitimate one was the Holy Rollers. The Hurl Scouts were based on the team, Tough Cookies.

   Not having much to do in the quiet town of Bodeen, Bliss (Ellen Page) finds herself wanting more out of life then what her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) would prefer. Which included becoming a pageant girl and considering herself lucky to have a mother navigate all her options for her. As a means to shove her pseudo 50’s idea of what her daughter’s should want out of life. Though Bliss fell into a category of the “alternative” lifestyle in that she listened to bands no one had ever heard of and wanted to follow her dreams, as soon as she found out what that was. It does have an old feel to it but I’m pretty sure that’s just the city of Bodeen, so don’t let that fool you. After a shopping trip to Austin, Bliss takes a flyer for a Roller Derby game and convinces best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) to tag along. Not taking long for Bliss to fall in love and not just with the game. A super skinny rocker by the name of Oliver (Douglas Minckiewicz) catches her attention as they exchange coy glances every so often.

Which is enough to have Bliss hooked and she agrees to tryout, having just turned 22, though actually 17 (But in 22 in real life). As the fabrication of lies begin weaving, she tells her parents of enrolling in a SAT class and switching her schedule at work, in order to do so. Practice does make perfect as she’s chosen for the Hurl Scouts on account of her speed but needing to be more aggressive with the other players. Deciding on the name Babe Ruthless, her big debut doesn’t come with a victory, but it’ll take more than that to get the team down as they celebrate either way. Thanks to Hot Tub Johnny (Jimmy Fallon) who provided the space for such but not actually able to partake in any of the fun going on around him. League bully Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) not wasting time hazing Bliss as she continually goes out of her way to make a mockery of the newb. Which eventually changes at the last meeting before the Championship as a food fight begins when a jealous Maven doesn’t agree with the new poster girl.

Meanwhile the Hurl Scouts continued to lose as they tire and decide their ready to start really putting in effort in hopes of catching up with the Rollers. Spending whatever free time in her busy schedule with Oliver and eventually indulging in his oozing “coolness” before he leaves for a tour. Later seeing on his band’s site, some other girl wearing the shirt she had given him, and deciding to stop pouring energy where it wasn’t wanted. Focusing her new-found hatred into the game, as they stay in second place and get their chance against the Rollers after all  But as luck would have it, her parents find out about the actual extracurricular activity while Maven overhears of Bliss’ age and she comes forward to her team. Making up with her mother by agreeing to do the pageant instead of attending the championship. Everyone knowing of the mistake she was making, including her father who went online and saw how much the team meant to her, and hey! she wasn’t half bad either. Going out of his way to become father of the year and trying his best to get her to the game on time.

What I liked most about the film was that it didn’t go for the expected ending. There was some heartache and plans that were changed but it didn’t destroy her existence. Her dad ends up being a hero all his own as he puts a sign showing pride for his daughter at the end; to show off to his neighbor who had boasted of his son previously. The cast as an entirety worked so well and were great examples of strong woman all around. I loved seeing Zoe Bell (Bloody Holly) and Eve (Rosa Sparks) as supporting roles. This was the first time I had to stop and take another look at Kristen Wigg; though I do find her humorous, it was great to see her mellowed out with tattoos and as a responsible mother. She actually surprised me in the best way. Jimmy Fallon was also best kept as the announcer for the girls. I find him funnier in less increments but having seen him work with Barrymore prior showed that they may be best as the funny sidekicks. The relationship between Drew (Smashley Simpson) and their Coach Razor (Andrew Wilson) became funnier as the movie went on. Wilson is another underrated Actor whose just as funny as his brothers if not a bit more so. Lewis was a great choice for the bitter bully who stated her actual age in the film (36) but looked more like a hard 40. (name that movie!) I do wish Ari Graynor (Eva Destruction) had a bigger part but had known from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist that she would eventually get her time and she will. I’d say a rather attractive cast all around with a perfect lead choice in Ellen Page.

I’ve spoken of my appreciation for Page in her previous role, The Tracey Fragments, along with other indie films she’s stared in. But she is pure talent that will go on to do great things. Though I failed to mention Marcia Gay Harden, her role was just as vital, taking the hit as the “bad guy” of the film. Every mother wants the best for their daughter and without knowing it, may unintentional want for them top pick up from their former life. Not realizing that her daughter had been doing the pageants solely to please her. Not finding out until reading her prepared speech which stated her mother being proud meaning more than any crown. All together now: “Awww.” A good message, a good cast and a great execution all around. I tried to think of what my roller derby name would be, but didn’t get very far. Whomp, whomp. If you could play Roller Derby, what would you want your name or team to be called?