Drew Barrymore wrote Whip It. Typically, writers work on a computer, maybe with a pen and paper. I dictate to servants while they prepare my bath. These methods all sounded a little cliche to Drew – not indie rock enough – so instead she printed the script for Juno, turned on MTV, cracked open a Coors Light, and punched herself in the face.
Should be a woman after my own heart, right? I do have a soft spot for Coors Light. And yet amazingly, a movie about a small-town Texas girl who takes up roller derby instead of beauty pageants didn’t rock my world. Shocking. I was expecting The Wrestler 2, where Mickey Rourke’s daughter takes up mixed martial arts but still can’t put her love for her awful ex-boyfriend into a choke hold. (Somewhere in here Mickey ends up standing on a stoop with a lead pipe.) I know what you’re going to ask, and the answer is no, it doesn’t even have a scene where Ellen Page buys steroids from a guy who looks like my mattress. Whip It takes more of the “Bring It On 4: Bring It On Already…Bitch” approach.
Ellen Page plays exactly the same character as in Juno. And to make the back-breakingly complex domestic politics easier to follow, her mom and dad in the movie are also exactly the same as the mom and dad from Juno. She’s a teen rebel with the sense and maturity of a 45 year-old. The dad is the sarcastic, practical one who loves sports. And the mom is a little batty but comes around in the end. If it weren’t for the skates, you really wouldn’t be able to tell the two movies apart.
Also…Little Miss Sunshine.
Barrymore puts herself in the movie alongside her all-girl fantasy skating team of Juliette Lewis, Eve, Zoe Bell, and Kristen Wiig. Because chicks fucking rock! In a bit of very welcome self-deprecation, Smashley Simpson spends most of the movie getting elbowed in the face. It’s cute because she’s the director! Or something. The scene where blood spurts out her nose was curiously gory. Growing up is a contact sport!! (DVD cover quote).
The casting of Zoe Bell is a good indicator that Drew saw Death Proof and decided it’d be better if there was no car.
The girls claw, scratch, and shoulder bash their way into the derby championship (and our hearts). Ellen Page finds the strength, spirit, compassion, and self-confidence to dump her ugly boyfriend. Jimmy Fallon finally swan dives into the grave he’s been digging. And Drew Barrymore gives us her best work since Fever Pitch. Or maybe Batman Forever. Or Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. These are cheap shots. Low blows. Fish hooks. Eye gouges.
And now you know how I feel.
Whip It starts today at the AMC Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki, and Century Centre 9.