Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with Whip It, a surprisingly entertaining comedy-drama about roller derby girls. Starring Ellen Page, the movie exceeds expectations and proves to be one of the more enjoyable experiences of the year.
Whip It follows young Bliss Cavendar (Page), a teenager repressed by her overbearing mother, played by Marcia Gay Harden. When a roller derby competition catches her eye, Bliss stumbles across the first thing she's ever been truly good at: skating around a short track and knocking the living daylights out of other women. Needless to say, she finds new friends and romance, but decides not to tell her parents.
As directorial debuts go, this is all one can ask for: a well-reviewed and solidly entertaining movie. There's nothing visually impressive or artistically outstanding about Barrymore's work, but that is not what's important; Whip It is a good movie, and nothing about the direction distracts from that.
Page once again turns in a fine performance as the lead protagonist; she isn't as memorable as she was in Juno, but then again the screenplay, by author Shauna Cross, was never intended to be an edgy alternative to the Oscar-winner. Whip It is a well-written and well-acted movie from beginning to end.
Its sole shortcoming is that it comes off as a smaller production than it needed to be; it doesn't feel like an indie film, but Barrymore appears to have lacked the confidence to make something truly remarkable. This becomes most obvious in the derby sequences, which, while entertaining, could have been more exciting. As is, Whip It is an entertaining movie, but one that will, unfortunately, be all but forgotten in a few years' time.
Whip It isn't perfect, but it is a strong first entry on Barrymore's new resume. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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