Whip It: Drew Barrymore’s Feature Directing Debut, Starring Ellen Page

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“Whip It,” Drew Barrymore’s feature directing debut, proves that she is not only a versatile actress (she also acts in the film) and resourceful producer, but also a shrewd helmer, choosing for her first film a light, amusing, offbeat and quirky chick flick about girls empowerment, with a touch of girls just wanna have fun

Though not a great film, “Whip It” is nonetheless a feel-good, enjoyable picture, tackling a new milieu, a relatively new sports (roller derby), and a new type of screen heroine, one that’s a good sports with boys, tough, courageous, and foul-mouthed and aggressive when necessary.
Scribe Shauna Cross, who adapted to the screen her semi-autobiographical book “Derby Girl,” didn’t bother to take the time and develop sharper characterization for the aggregate of women, young and not-so-young, is colorful and terrific and a lot of fun to behold.
Indeed, except for Ellen Page, who gives yet another winning, utterly compelling and likable performance in the title role, and two or three figures, the rest are one-dimensional, or types, particularly the parents, though they are well-played by Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern. Extending its welcome by 20 minutes, the movie just continues to go on, even when its plot is resolved. Perhaps Barrymore, as producer-helmer-actress, felt too close to her text.
Set in a God-forsaken small town, Bodeen, Texas, the tale centers on Bliss Cavendar (Elen Page), a 17 year-old girl, who all her life has been dreaming of escaping her tiny, truck-stop of a village. And on more than one level, “Whip It unfolds as a quintessential small-town melodrama, borrowing from “Rebel Without a Cause as well as the more recent “Little Miss Sunshine, particularly in the early chapters.
The first scene introduces Bliss’s rigid matriarch, a devoted, beauty pageant obsessed mother (Marcia Gay Harden), who in her worldview, approach to marriage, and specifically her expectations for her daughters is stuck somewhere in the late 1950s or early 1960s.   Mom has convinced herself that Bliss can only succeed in life if she wins the crown at the local Miss Blue Bonnet Pageant, but the awkward outsider, like numerous protagonists in American small-town dramas and comedies, knows that there’s something bigger, better, and more fulfilling for her out there. And the “out there” turns out to be within reach, both physically and pragmatically, the neighboring Austin, Texas.
Thus, Bliss sneaks off to the “big” cultural city of Austin with her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat), after work as waitresses at a local diner. With eyes wide-opened and appetite for adventurism, Bliss discovers a world unlike anything she could ever imagine: Roller derby. The denizens of this world, defined by girl-power-meets-punk-rock spirit and liberating celebration of wild individuality, has not been seen by Bliss—or by us viewers.
Inspired by an older girl Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), who later turns out to be a responsible single mom, Bliss secretly tries out for a spot on the Hurl Scouts, a rag-tag team of scrappy underdogs. Soon she’s trading in her gowns and crowns for skirts, skates and scrapes becoming her alter ego, Babe Ruthless. 
Leading a precarious double life, Bliss (and we) realizes that it’s only a matter of time before her real identity and real age (17, in lieu of the legalized 21 she claims to be) would be disclosed with some bad consequences.
Thus, we get to see a female version of Travolta’s Tony Manero in the 1977 “Saturday Night Fever,” who carries a day job, but whose real life begins at night, on the dance floor. Indeed, Bliss may be a waitress at Bodeen’s Oink Joint by day, but by night, she’s becoming the fastest thing on eight wheels. Soon, she’s doing things she never dreamed of, such as fearlessly facing off with badass rivals like Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis, in tough form).
Predictably, there is also some time for romance, which leads to loss of virginity and some misunderstandings. Bliss falls for an outsider like herself, Oliver (played by the actual singer-songwriter Landon Pigg), a tall, skinny, sensitive boy, who plays in his brother’s band and wears the right kind of clothes, and also knows when to take them off—the sex scene in the pool under water is quite erotic.
In the last reel, Bliss’s new passion and commitment, and continuous double life manage to upset not only her parents but also her best friends at work and pro teammates. And when her secret gets out, Bliss faces a series of confrontations with each of the cast’s members, determined to make amends, while not giving up her dream and taking control of the future on her own terms. 
As director, Barrymore has assembled a terrifically dynamic cast, headed by Page, who can do no wrong, and including Jimmy Fallon, Eve, Zoë Bell, Ari Graynor, Eulala Scheel, Andrew Wilson, Carlo Alban and Daniel Stern. 
Barrymore has assigned to herself a small but significant part of the feisty Hurl Scout, Smashley Simpson, who’s always physically hurt (bleeding nose, broken neck, bruises).
Credits
A Fox Searchlight Pictures release presented in association with Mandate Pictures of a Vincent Pictures/Flower Films/Rye Road production.
Co-producers, Nicole Brown, Kelli Konop, Jason Lust, Karyn McCarthy. Directed by Drew Barrymore.
Screenplay, Shauna Cross, from her novel “Derby Girl.”
Camera, Robert Yeoman.
Editor, Dylan Tichenor.
Music, the Section Quartet; music supervisor, Randall Poster.
Production designer, Kevin Kavanaugh.
Costume designer, Catherine Marie Thomas.
Set decorator, Meg Everist,
Sound, Whit Norris; supervising sound editor, Christopher Scarabosio.
Assistant director, Jonathan Watson.
MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 111 Minutes.
Cast
Bliss Cavendar Ellen Page
Brooke Cavendar – Marcia Gay Harden
“Maggie Mayhem” – Kristen Wiig
“Smashley Simpson” – Drew Barrymore
“Iron Maven” – Juliette Lewis
Earl Cavendar – Daniel Stern
Oliver- Landon Pigg
Pash Amini – Alia Shawkat
Coach “Razor” – Andrew Wilson
Johnny- Jimmy Fallon
“Bloody Holly” – Zoe Bell
“Rosa Sparks” – Eve
“Eva Destruction” – Ari Graynor