BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 31, 2010
Truth be told, it was not the actors or the storyline that attracted me to the film, it was the song “Pork & Beans” by Weezer in the trailers. The idea of Drew Barrymore interacting with a film more than just ungracefully gracing the screen sent shivers down my spine. But give it up to those glasses-wearing nerd rockers to apply their new anthem to the roller derby flick, plus my faith-restoring experience of “Inception” and Ellen Page to set the stage… I needed to see “Whip It.”
The list of positives following the viewing of “Whip It” outweighed the list of negatives, completely blindsiding me. Ellen Page only tops off the great cast including Kristen Wigg, Daniel Stern, and Alia Shawkat. Daniel Stern became my favorite part of the film, playing Page’s father, the closeted sports-nut that rarely scolds his beatnik daughter. His encouragement and coy tactics make me love the film. Kristen Wigg plays a more mild-mannered role than usual, as fellow teammate and friend to Page, acting as the voice of reason when Page turns to her for guidance. And Alia Shawkat plays Page’s boisterous best friend, Pash, who finally makes some waves on my radar, proving to be the next Kat Denning.
Juliette Lewis has never won me over in previous roles, normally playing the airhead or the gun-wielding bandit, but Lewis finally won me over, playing the grungy and soon-to-be-replaced Iron Maven, Page’s strongest competition and antagonist of the film. Her appearance finally matches her character, and in my strong opinion, Lewis plays the role she was finally meant to play.
Without knowing this was Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, I would still have noticed that the film has obvious potholes. The film almost immediately begins with zooming (almost a whip-pan), which is usually avoided by directors and cinematographers alike. Though I feel Barrymore probably felt at home directing this grunge flick, the idea of her directing future films is unsettling. Her role in the film is dismal and her performance was a caricature at best.
Other actors in the film I could have done without include Jimmy Fallon (Hollywood is still not enacting my “replace-Fallon-with-Andy Samberg” rule). Fallon’s commentary was dry and lame, as comes to be standard from him these days. Argue that this was the point and I will argue that this is always the point. Eve appeared unneeded, begging the question of who her friend was on the set and how did they get her the gig? Landon Pigg displays why he should remain behind the microphone and not on my television screen. Though the man can sing, the same cannot be said for his acting.
The story is age-old yet enjoyable, with Ellen Page playing Bliss, an out of place teenager simply searching for a place to belong. That place: an abandoned warehouse by day, a derby stadium by night. Led by the hilarious Razor (Andrew Wilson), the coach of the Hurl Scouts, the team allows Bliss to join the ranks after she lies about her age. Through meeting guys, going to parties, and lying to her parents, Bliss finally finds the confidence she lacked from the start and falls in love with the roller derby.
The film has heart, which is a staple in attracting me to a film. You can feel the emotion pouring out of each character, most notably Page, Stern, and even Wilson, who simply wants the team to learn the plays, even being brought to tears when they finally do. The film gives off a radiance that most films lack and, honestly this makes me feel bad for not viewing the film sooner.
So there you have it. All you have to do is make any film you could dream of, put a Weezer song that matches the tone of the film (which, let’s be honest, there is a song for probably just about every genre contained somewhere in Weezer’s arsenal of anthems, case in point: “If You’re Wondering If I Want You” in the trailer for “She’s Out Of My League” strongly encouraged my decision for viewing that film and thank goodness for that), and I will probably watch your film, at least once. I have got to hand it to Drew Barrymore… she done well.
October 2, 2009
by Shauna Cross
Fox Searchlight Pictures
(for sexual content, including crude dialogue and language, and drug material)
Robert D. Yeoman
The Section Quartet
Marcia Gay Harden