Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, starring the quirky loveliness of Ellen Page, may not be high art or cinematically groundbreaking, but it is great fun and a movie with a good heart.
Ellen Page plays 'Bliss', a seventeen year old teenage girl growing up in a small Texan town who feels pressured by her mother to enter beauty pageants. A bit of a social outcast, Bliss finds inspiration and freedom by auditioning for a female Roller Derby team in the neighbouring town, Austin.
It really is a coming of age story about first love, let downs, struggling with other people's expectations of you and finding yourself, oh, and about being tough, fast and ruthless of the skating track.
Reborn as 'Babe Ruthless', Bliss finds something she loves doing, but learns some important life lessons about friends and family along the way.
Whip It really isn't bad for a directorial debut, but when you have Steven Spielberg as a mentor, that can't be a bad thing. The movie is entertaining, sweet and most of all watchable (a totally underrated commodity in Hollywood these days) which earns the endearing comedy at least three *** stars.
Some of my criticism would be that it is a little predictable at times and some of the action looks a little weak. The Roller Derby scenes could have been shot with more energy and a frenetic pacing.
The 'Whip It' move that the film's title refers to, where a teammate grabs you and 'whips you' at speed around a corner like a slingshot doesn't seem that impressive on film. In addition, as most of the Roller Derby girls are actresses who are probably not professional skaters, you get the impression they are just thankful to stay on their feet, rather than being able to actually do any mind-blowing stunts.
Ellen Page is as fabulous as ever, but you have to wonder if she's getting typecast with all these quirky misfit roles in Juno, Smart People and now Whip It. It would be nice to see her in something different occasionally. Same goes for Juliette Lewis, can she only ever play troubled bad girls?
With all that said it made me smile for 111 minutes and so job done.