In a town near Austin, Bliss Cavendar's strong-willed mom believes Bliss, at 17, can win pageants - the key to a happy life. Bliss isn't the beauty pageant type: she's shy, quiet, and has just one friend, Pash, her fellow waitress at a diner. Things change for Bliss when she discovers a women's roller derby league in Austin, tries out, proves to be whip fast, and makes a team. Now she needs to become someone tough on the rink, keep her parents from finding out where she goes twice a week, and do something about a first crush, on a musician she meets at the derby. Meanwhile, mom still sees Bliss as Miss Bluebonnet. Things are on a collision course; will everyone get banged up? Written by
In addition to their similar names, the manner in which the "Manson Sisters" are introduced is an obvious homage to the first appearance of the Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot (1977): both scenes involve the characters beating up a vending machine, as well as similar dialogue indicating that the players have been "transferred" from other teams. See more »
At one point in the movie, the opposing team does a roundhouse punch and knocks down all the members of the team. Any type of violence in Roller Derby (punching, kicking, fighting) would get a player expelled from the game, but the opposing team doesn't face any such reprimanding whatsoever. See more »
I attended the World Premiere of "Whip It" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. This is quite an impressive directorial debut for Drew Barrymore (who also stars).
Barrymore works with a Shauna Cross script (based on her own novel Derby Girl) and an all-star cast featuring Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Daniel Stern, Kristen Wiig, Landon Pigg, Jimmy Fallon, Eve, and Juliette Lewis.
Page is Bliss Cavendar, whose mother (Harden) sees her daughter in gowns and crowns as she continues the family tradition of winning beauty pageant trophies. But Bliss' chance encounter with a group of roller skating girls plants other ideas in her head. Austin, Texas happens to host a roller derby league, it's not too far away, and Bliss finally sees a way out of her town (and gown). This sets up a family confrontation that is the stuff of classic coming-of-age stories.
The film starts out slow then whips into action, its brilliant ensemble cast hitting its stride and functioning like a winning roller derby team (without the bruises). Then just when you think "Whip It" is headed into sports rom-com cliché territory, surprising twists keep it original and refreshing. But despite the multitude of talented actors, Page clearly carries the film on her diminutive shoulders and is easily in control of the material.
Production values are naturally first rate, with a vivid color palette and in-your-face costumes that are occasionally (and appropriately) over the top. Cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman and editor Dylan Tichenor work perfectly in sync by reflecting both the snail's pace of Bliss' home life vs. the secret one that flies on wheels around the Austin track. Camera-work places the viewer directly into the action. Despite having been filmed primarily in Michigan (due to favorable tax credits) the Austin scenes are prominent, placing its landmarks in a warm, affectionate light. One benefit of a big budget is the ability to purchase music rights, and the result is a killer soundtrack that will have the audience singing along. Be sure to stay for the second of the two closing credits songs, the best ever cover of one of the greatest rock 'n roll love songs of all time, The Association's "Never My Love." Fox Searchlight scores again with Ellen Page, just like they did in 2007 with "Juno." Unlike that (at the time) dark horse, this is no little indie. This is classic Hollywood comedy. "Whip It" is another crowd pleaser to add to this year's must-see list.
55 of 77 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?