Saturday, 23 January 2010

No.161 : Whip It




After the ‘girl power’ frenzy that was ‘While She Was Out’ I approached this film with some misgivings seeing as it was written by a lady and directed by Drew Barrymore. As you’d suspect the ‘go girl’ element is high and all the male characters are thinly drawn but it was a pleasant, if slightly familiar distraction.

Ellen Page, late of ‘Juno’ stars as a student and part time waitress who is under the thumb of her overbearing mother who thinks that her two daughters should follow in her footsteps and enter beauty pageants. Clearly our girl is more of a free spirit and after finding a flyer for an all girl roller derby match she decides to go along with her friend to see if there are any ‘cute guys’.

Of course there are and before we know it our little shrew is trying out for the team and having awkward soppy moments with a louche dude who has a band and interesting hair. The roller derby team , ‘The Hurl Scouts’ dress like mobile hookers and generally slap each other about a lot - no wonder there is no shortage of guys. The teams plays against the same five teams and we soon meet the baddie team ‘The Holly Rollers’ and their evil leader played by Juliette Lewis, reprising her bad girl routine from ‘Starsky & Hutch’.

Despite falling over a lot at the trials and looking about twelve our heroine gets on the team after lying about her age. Meanwhile romance is blossoming with the douche bag and he even gets to see her lacy bra and a souvenir in her ‘Stryper’ t-shirt. The roller derby team are usually last but with their new star player they soon start rising up the league.

Before we know it it’s time for all the clich├ęs to set in with the championship game and the mother / daughter beauty pageant taking place the same night. Who will she choose? Will they win and what event? Has the dick weed boyfriend given away her t-shirt? It’s all so immaterial you might find yourself caring.

I actually quite liked this film although I’d be hard pressed to say why. But let’s try.

For one the sport was quite fun. I’d heard of but never seen a roller derby and it looks pretty gruesome. I wasn’t totally sold on the action scenes but they had the standard device of a funny commentator to explain things to the slow people. The team was your usual mix of sassy characters with a smart quip and some bonding never far away. At least the skirts where short and the school girl blouses tight.

The directing by Drew Barrymore was OK but I’d like to have seen a bit of the fat trimmed as nearly two hours for a formulaic rites of passage / sports film is a bit too long. There were a couple of good scenes with the one in the swimming pool nice and touching without being too letchy about a 17 year old.

The cast were all pretty good with Ellen Page almost convincing as a hell cat skater. At one point she does a tiny jump over one person and everyone is like ‘whoa Evel Kinevil here’ although not very convincingly. Barrymore couldn’t resist a small role in the team too but she was looking a bit long in the tooth for the short skirt and coloured hair - more like someone’s granny who forgot her pills.

Over all the film was a forgettable bit of fluff. It did have some indie sensibilities and was almost a hybrid of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Rollerball’ but not enough to spark the imagination or get me pulling on my skates.

As Devo didn’t say Whip It - Quite Good.

Best Bit : I’m wearing my best bra
‘W’ Rating 15/23