Thursday, February 11, 2010

Whip It (2009)


Drowned by her mother's beauty pageant dreams, Bliss (Ellen Page) seeks out the world of women's roller derby as an escape. As she slowly becomes a hit in the circuit, she must balance her friends, new boyfriend, and sudden popularity with her family's old school values, and high school friends.

I've said it in the past, and little has changed since, I was very wary going in to watching this movie. It's plot really didn't scream out to me, but I figured it would be a solid 2 hours of entertainment. And ultimately that's about all I got. You see, for all its best efforts, Whip It is a fun film, caught in a very generic plot with cardboard characters, and lots of over the top characters. I feel as if for every entertaining moment there's another movie out there that's done it, and done it much better. And while I hate that argument, it can be an overbearing feeling, especially while watching coming of age sports movies.

That's not to say the movie does anything necessarily bad. Ellen Page delivers her premium performance you'd expect, and the rest of the cast hovers around decent. Most characters are more caricature than anything, especially when it comes to Juliette Lewis and Drew Barrymore. They gain a couple of laughs, but I found them rather bland, and annoying, at times. I'd like to think there was something more to their characters than there is, but ultimately they're just prototypes. Kristen Wiig and Marcia Gay Harden (whose eyebrows are slowly approaching Hugo Weaving level) were refreshingly well handled characters with some depth. While I'm always game for a Daniel Stern appearance (love Home Alone). Still, I say this all the time, I could do without a Jimmy Fallon... in anything, ever.

As for her first time directing effort, Drew Barrymore shows a knack for not getting in the way of the acting. She also handles the derby sequences rather nicely, even though they often feel a bit disconnected. With some more efforts I believe Barrymore can become a solid film director, there's definitely the prowess there, but she may do well to learn how to highlight moments (most "big" scenes in the film felt about the same as other scenes). And the writing, Shauna Cross handles it, though it can be a bit repetitive, it carries the film just fine. Though I do wonder if the characters are given more depth in the novel...

Even with some solid entertainment power, and pro strong-women stance, Whip It is weighed down by a collection of mediocre characters, and generic moments that never feel as real as they should.

8 better thoughts:

Castor said...

I agree that the supporting cast was very uni-dimensional but it didn't bother me as much as usual because the movie was told from Bliss' point of view.

Glad you somewhat liked it, I would have felt bad if you hated it after I encouraged you to see it lol

Candice Frederick said...

hmmm...yeah i'm nto overly excited to see thsi film either. but i will probably check it out. the trailer just doens't wow me AT ALL.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I'm surprised, yet unsurprised at your grade. It definitely was enjoyable (at least).

Univarn said...

@Castor Don't ever bother feeling bad if I dislike something you recommend. That's what experience and taste is all about :).

@Candice it's entertaining, I just didn't get into it enough to love it.

@Andrew I may have to just call you non-descriptive :P

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Wow, I totally disagree about the genaricness of the secondary character. I thought Juliette Lewis was amazing, how often do we see a character like hers? Not often enough, I say.

One of the things I loved about it was that this a coming of age / coming into your own film with a female protagonist that *isn't* centred on the romance. It's about her finding her tribe - and that resonates strongly with women these days.

I'm glad you got something out of it though! I look forward to seeing what Drew Barrymore does next :)

Univarn said...

@Moxie I think Lewis' character was the villain of every Disney sports related movie as long as I can remember. The self obsessed all-star who spends the entire film undermining the individual only to gain a certain amount of respect for them after the big final match in which they show a lot of heart.

As for the rest I leaned more towards liking what it was trying to do more than I liked what it actually did. It just felt ok to me the entire time, never anything special. Which is why it got an ok score. Entertaining yes, but I doubt I'd revisit it.

Danny King said...

I agree with you that some of the supporting characters are cliches, but that didn't really matter to me. The important characters were done well, starting with Page's terrific performance. I thought her relationship with Wiig was one of the more interesting subplots of the film. As a director, I think you nailed it when you said that Barrymore has a knack for not getting in the way.

If there was one part I might have done differently, it would have been the romance that Page's character gets involved in. I don't know if it was the actor or the way the part was written, but it all felt a bit awkward for me, and the chemistry between the actors was lacking.

filmgeek said...

I loved it and I think people need to remember that a lot of teenage girls will be watching it so I think it's great that the film shows young women can be fesity and independent. Sure Bliss gets wrapped up in a whirlwind romance but she becomes a success without him. It handles all the cliches in an entertaining and somewhat inspiring way

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