October 2, 2009
On the Big Board
|Ellen Page was very good as usual - good supporting cast - although Drew Barrymore and Juliette Lewis both annoyed the hell out of me (probably the point). Alia Shawkat deserved more screen time.
|This had some charm. I especially liked Kristen Wiig in it.
It’s all about marketing, folks. You could easily tell me Whip It was a coming-of-age story with an all female cast including Marcia Gay Marden and Juliette Lewis that’s directed by Drew Barrymore. And I would promptly give you the “No thanks, I’m not much of a chick flick fan” response. What guy is? But if you told me Whip It was an all female roller derby movie starring Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig and Zoe Bell, I might say something like, “Now that’s my kind of chick flick.”
Judging by the trailer, it looks like Fox Searchlight is going with the latter approach, which is a very good thing that should pay serious dividends.
The film is adapted from the novel Derby Girl by Shauna Cross, who also wrote the screenplay. Ms. Cross, as you may have guessed, based the book on her own experiences while skating for the Texas Roller Girls. The story is a bit of a Cinderella in reverse deal. Page plays a beauty pageant queen who’s a punk-loving rebel at heart. Much to the dismay of her buttoned up mom, Marica Gay Harden, she finds herself by joining a rough and tumble roller team.
There are a lot of good - no, great - pieces here. I will take a serious look at any film featuring Ellen Page. Sure, she may have gotten a little pegged since Juno, a film I found more and more annoying the more popular it got, but that was just because she was so darned good in it. And here she looks like she’s leaving the hipster teenager thing behind in some tire tracks. Nice. Same goes for Kristen Wiig. I have laughed whenever she’s opened her mouth. And Zoe Bell singlehandedly redeemed Death Proof. Because of these ladies alone I will see this movie.
The only real wild card is Barrymore, who is producing with her production company Flower Films. Movies directed by actors are always dicey, especially if it’s their first time behind the camera. Even true greats like Clint Eastwood needed several go-rounds before finding their rhythm. And in terms of scope, while this isn’t Lawrence of Arabia, it’s not some small three-character talker either. Those roller derby sequences would be no slouch to shoot - which I give Barrymore credit for. If you’re going to do it, do it big.
This is why I’m going to give Barrymore the benefit of the doubt. After all, she’s spent practically her entire life on films sets. She must have picked up something. Assuming Barrymore isn’t totally incompetent, Whip It, mixing comedy, fun and drama against a roller derby background that isn’t too familiar to audiences, looks to have breakout potential - not to mention it’s a movie about pretty girls punching each other. (Tom Macy/BOP)