As with so many child stars it all could have gone so wrong for Drew Barrymore. Well, actually it did. She was in rehab at 13 and attempted suicide at 14. Yes, it went wrong but she didn’t just survive, she came back with a vengeance. Not only is her acting career in exceedingly healthy shape but she got behind the camera for this in 2009. Whip It is her directorial debut and it’s a great film. Ellen Page plays Bliss Cavendar, a small town, Texan 17 year-old who is being regularly shoved into fifties-throwback beauty pageants by her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). Unbeknown to her parents she becomes involved in the world of roller derby in nearby
and thrives in the all-girl, all-contact-sport under her new moniker, Babe Ruthless. Austin
The roller derby scenes are actually the weaker aspects of the film. What Barrymore’s clearly very capable of is directing actors and the wordier scenes push all of the right buttons. It helps to have a solid cast. Oscar-winner, Marcia Gay Harden is great as always. The somewhat underrated Daniel Stern (probably best known as the bungling burglar in Home Alone who’s not Joe Pesci) gives a beautifully nuanced performance as Bliss’ dad. Barrymore does act in the film but she only has few lines. This seems a wise move. Directors crashing into the foreground often have a bull in a china shop effect, wrecking the illusion of the film. Exhibit A: Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction.
Not quite sure how to define this one. Is it a teen movie? Not really. Is it a chick flick? Well, sort of. I quite like a film to be impossible to pigeonhole. Sadly, I suppose that’s why it didn’t set the box office alight (although it was a modest success). But it’s fun, funny and smart, and should appeal to the demographic that has a heart, a brain and a sense of humour.