116. Whip It (2009)

Smashing, ruthless and good fun

8/10
Directed by: Drew Barrymore
Written by: Shauna Cross (screenplay), Shauna Cross (novel)
Starring: Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore and Kristen Wiig

No one's listening to the pep talk, are they?

Roller derby is a fierce female sport. On rollerskates, girls elbow, push and shove each other out in an enclosed loop scoring points according to how fast a selected player can overtake the other players in each lap. The heated competition, the friendship between teammates and the passion behind the game keep Drew Barrymore’s Whip It afloat, along with strong performances by Ellen Page and Kristen Wiig who take out any possibility that the film simply winds down into a cheesy chicky flick.

Bliss (Page) is a teenager who has only known a life of pageants, what her mother wants for her, and working as a waitress at a lonely diner. When she sees a group of roller derby girls, rolling on the skates of freedom and rambunctious fun, she is immediately drawn to try outs, games and of course, the championship. Trying to balance her schoolwork, friendships, a new romance and her parents’ expectations, Bliss soon finds it hard to choose between following what she is truly passionate about and keeping others happy.

While Whip It may be set up to be predictably inspiring with the conventional obstacles of overbearing parents and commitments of the mundane, Whip It takes surprising turns and proves to be a lot more subtle in its characters’ development and transformation. In addition to this, the film is strongly focused on capturing the spirit and excitement behind the sport, rather than getting too caught up in Bliss’ other personal issues. It is economical in its emotional story and enables the audience to be immersed in the addictive world of – not simply roller derby championships, but the discovery of passion and a sense of belonging that teenagers, adults, parents and misfits seek their entire life. Well written, directed and executed, Whip It rolls out on top as not just another cheap sellout.

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