Whip It (2009) – Film Review

Whip It poster starring Ellen PageWhip It

Starring Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat, Jimmy Fallon

Directed by Drew Barrymore, based on the novel Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

IMDB Rating: 6.9

Drew Barrymore’s only foray into directing, and one of Ellen Page’s first starring roles, this is a relatively cliché film that most people have seen a part of at some point. But can it really be classed as a cult classic?

Based on the novel by Shauna Cross, Whip It is the story of Texas girl Bliss Cavendar (Page). Alienated by her mother and the string of Beauty Pageants she forces her into, she is desperate to break away from the idea that beauty is everything. She discovers a local women’s roller derby, and after secretly visiting with her friend Pash (Shawkat) tries out for the struggling team. She finds herself within the ‘Hurl Scouts’, but things come to a head when the polar opposites – beauty pageants and roller derby – clash.

As you could probably guess, this is a hugely stereotypical film about a young girl discovering who she is away from what her family wants. There’s not much more to say except that the story is hugely predictable, and full of montages, advice, learning, hidden talents, being happy not winning then winning at the very end, etcetera etcetera.

While the story isn’t exactly gripping, the acting in this film is pretty good. Ellen Page is very good at playing an innocent, out of the crowd girl trying to discover who she is. I can imagine she’s made a career out of not really knowing what to do, but I can’t say I’ve seen many of her other films. Jimmy Fallon is funny, and I’m a big fan of Alia Shawkat in this and others, but this is Page’s film in every sense.

The directing by Drew Barrymore is okay, but not great. The action scenes seem way too soft to me – roller derby is meant to be this cutthroat sport, a polar opposite to the pageants, but the directing makes it look closer to a stroll in a park than rock-em-sock-em robots. Outside of that the directing seems on point, but not exactly inventive or remarkable.

I saw this film years ago, but when I watched it again it annoyed me how cliché it was, and how I fell for it the first time. That being said, the acting in the film is very good, and if you can live with cliché films then this is okay. Just okay. I can see why people would call this a cult-classic, but there’s so many better than this. Maybe it doesn’t help that I’m a male, I don’t know.

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