Movie Review — Whip It

Title: Whip it
Director: Drew Barrymore
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Rating: PG-13

When I saw the trailers for this film last year, I was intrigued. A darker coming-of-age sports movie with Drew Barrymore in her directorial debut. I didn’t used to like Drew all that much (my sister killed me on E.T. when we were younger and then it wasn’t until Charlie’s Angels that I liked anything she did as an adult) but she’s grown on me.

I was drawn to the film because I think Roller Derby is a hilarious sport, and Ellen Page is very cute. So, to help fight off a bout of insomnia last night, I rented it on Amazon and started into it, expecting to finish it this morning. Yeah, I watched the whole thing last night.

There are certain tropes in the film that are expected. It’s a coming of age story, and Bliss is breaking a lot of rules all at once. You know that was going to come back to bite her in the butt. Her mom is a doting Texas mother, making ends meet by working for the post office and otherwise shipping her daughters off to as many pageants as possible. Bliss, in typical 17-year-old form, can’t stand it. She’s got the supportive best friend who she takes advantage of while she goes to Austin to join the roller derby team. She’s got the dad who’s loving, but has very little backbone. She’s got a team of derby players who think she’s great and the competition who can’t stand how young she is yet that good. None of these elements are surprising.

The story unfolds like you would expect it to. The world is perfect, it comes crashing down, Bliss realizes she needs to put her life back in order (with a little push from her friends), and she gets what she wants in the end. The end message is nice, though: you need to stand up for what you want to do with your life, but if your family cares, you can’t afford to alienate them. It’s a good message, and although not a perfect movie, it was fun to watch, and Drew did good job on her first foray behind the camera.

This is not a film for young teens. The conversations, underage drinking, among other things, make it a film for 16-17 and up. I liked watching it as a college graduate looking back on high school. I’m not sure I would’ve liked it as much were I still battling that part of my life. It’s a film that watching it, you can tell the cast and crew had fun, and the enthusiasm of the film makes it that much more enjoyable to watch.

Grade: B+

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