Whip It

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The movie takes place in the 1990s in the Austin, Texas region. Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a misfit in the small town of Bodeen, Texas, with no sense of direction in her life. Her mother, a former beauty queen, pushes her to enter beauty pageants despite her lack of interest. Bliss and her friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) dream of escaping, Pash planning on attending an ivy league school in a big city, but Bliss is uncertain as to what she wants for her future. During a shopping trip to Austin with her mother, Bliss encounters three roller derby team members. Intrigued, she and Pash attend a roller derby event under the pretense of going to a football game, where they see the Holy Rollers defeat the Hurl Scouts, a perennially unsuccessful derby team. Bliss tells the Hurl Scouts that they are “her new heroes” and is suddenly drawn to the idea of being in a roller derby herself when one of the Hurl Scouts, Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) replies, “Well, put some skates on. Be your own hero.”

Returning to Austin, Bliss lies about her age and tries out for the Hurl Scouts, discovering her natural skating abilities in the process.

After realizing she needs to be ruthless in a roller derby, Bliss sees she needs to take charge in other aspects of her life, revealed through various sub-plots. One involves Bliss’s love interest, a lanky young rock guitarist and singer named Oliver (Landon Pigg) whom she meets via her exposure to roller derby. They enjoy a whirlwhind romance and underwater making out, until Oliver leaves for a tour, taking Bliss’ T-shirt with him. She later finds a picture of him at a gig with another girl, who is wearing her t-shirt. She breaks up with him following his return, although he vehmently denies anything happened. Another sub-plot examines Bliss’s relationship with her parents, a loving but controlling mother and an amiable but clueless father who seldom opposes his wife’s parental decisions, although preceding her parents discovery of Bliss’ involvement in roller derby (right before the championship roller derby match), he convinces her mother to let her out of a pageant which is at the same time and gets the Hurl Scouts to come get her for the match. Various other sub-plots include her relationship with Pash, and confrontations with a stuck up snob at school. Pash is fine with Bliss’ new path, until she gets arrested with an open container of beer while she is waiting for Bliss, who has left to go make out with Oliver. Eventually, Pash gets together with their slightly pathetic coworker and forgives Bliss. The movie ends with the Hurl Scouts narrowly losing the championship match and everyone finally getting along,; the team chants “We’re number two!”, the same thing they chanted when they lost their first match (the coach pointed out that there were only two teams involved).


 Something they keep alluding to in this film is that these are “tough chicks in nylons”[sic]. I guess some guys get turned on by this. I’m not one of them, but I did enjoy this film, surprisingly.

Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much from this. As a matter of fact, I have been avoiding this flick since it was released.

Whip It begins at a beauty pageant, where we can all but tell why our young heroin, for lack fo a better term, is destined for the roller derby ranks. Wouldn’t you need some sort of release after being subject to that rigomoro on a constant basis? Not to mention her overbearing mother. I wonder if she was as bad as the Toddlers & Tiaras parental units.

I don’t know much about roller derby, but from what I can tell these filmmakers do a pretty good job of capturing the excitement that goes into these matches, without going too far overboard in a sad attempt to create some dramatic moment. The plot does a good enough job of handling all the drama.

Speaking of the plot, it is about as simple as can be. The aforementioned beauty pageant contestant gets fed up with the pageant scene and tries out, sans her parent’s knowledge, for a roller derby team in Austin, TX. She soon becomes the league’s star, but along the way her best friend gets arrested for underage drinking which leads to her parents finding out about her secret roller derby life. On top of all that, there is the typical boyfriend drama that accompanies any film involving a teenage girl.

Ellen Page really embraces this character, but I am kind of getting the feeling from her that she’s being typecast as this rebellious teen, since every other role has been similar. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Marcia Gay Harden really shines as the overbearing, pageant queen mother. Her performance was so believable that I have to wonder if she drew from any real life experiences.

Newcomer Ali Sawkhat turns in a solid supporting role, as do the roller derby girls, mainly Kristin Wiig, who seems to be the “maternal” one. Of course, the fact that she turns out to have a kid of her own may be the reason for that.

Juliette Lewis is once again the bad guy, of sorts. Anyone remember the days of The Other Sister, when she actually portrayed a nice girl?

While watching this film, you may think that the coach is Owen Wilson with his nose fixed, but in reality, it is the other Wilson brother, Andrew.

Whip It is one of those sports movies that is what you think it will be. The only thing that isn’t what you think is the pageant stuff. I enjoyed this film and think that pretty much anyone who watches it will, as well. Drew Barrymore did a bang up job with her directorial debut!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars


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