If you describe a movie with the words Ellen Page, roller-derby racing and Drew Barrymore, everyone will automatically think, “Chick flick.”
Don’t be too quick to judge.
Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Whip It, is a heartwarming success that surpasses girly and touches on young adulthood dreams and romance. Released this week, Whip It is an original product of Barrymore’s wit combined with Ellen Page’s genius acting.
In this film, Page plays Bliss Cavendar, a high school student on the fringe – similar to Page’s Juno character – but she quickly proves to be a refreshing and charming character. Struggling to fulfill her mother’s dreams of pageantry and pressure to live the childhood she wished she had, Page plays the perfect, too-mature teen with a mixture of rebelliousness and complacency.
Bliss’ mundane life as a waitress with her best friend (Alia Shawkat) in a pig-themed diner in Bodeen is interrupted by a shopping trip with her mother and eager younger pageant queen sister.
In mid-purchase of a pair of classic rebel-teen boots, Bliss watches with wide eyes as a group of animated women skate into the store and deliver fliers. The experience sparks her interest in roller derby, a high-contact low-rules sport for rough and somewhat crass women, one of who is Barrymore herself (whose role seems a little overplayed).
When Bliss secures a spot on the league, a hidden life of daily out-of-town bus rides, roller skates and an attractive musician boyfriend, (played by Landon Pigg), take precedence over pageant speeches and her mother’s dreams for her future. When her age and lies are discovered by her parents and boyfriend drama predictably ensues, Bliss’ newfound passion for roller derby is threatened.
Barrymore’s first directorial effort is a success, promising future films that are both quirky and thoughtful. She presents characters you can identify with, and ultimately positive family relationships that reflect traditional values clashing with modern-day struggles. Although it presents a familiar plotline and Disney-channel “go for your dreams” theme, Barrymore found what works and worked it in this movie, which continues to play at Carmike Theatre in Abilene this week.