I've decided that I'm going to adopt Ellen Page. She's just adorable, but too young for me to romance so what other option is there? In Whip It, she plays…well, Ellen Page. That is to say she plays a teenager, not dissimilar to the teenager she played in Juno or The Tracey Fragments (I'm still not ready to talk about Hard Candy even though it's been five years since I've seen it). I want to believe that the girl is immensely talented, but ask me again in ten or twenty years after we have had a chance to see how she transitions into more adult roles. On the other hand, let's not rush things. She's fine right now just the way she is and let's enjoy her while we can.
Bliss Cavendar (Page) is a seventeen-year old high school student whose smothering mother (played by Marcia Gay Harden) is intent on making into the next beauty pagent queen of their small Texas town. Bliss is indifferent to the prospect at best. One day, out at the mall buying shoes, she sees a group of women come in who happen to be members of a roller derby team from Austin. Intrigued, she goes to see them in action one night. One thing leads to another and Bliss Cavendar ends up buying a pair of roller skates and becomes “Babe Ruthless”, proud member of the Hurl Scouts, a struggling roller derby team which she will eventually help take to the roller derby championships. If you've never seen roller derby, it's a silly sport where half-dressed women in too much makeup race around a track and smash into each other. My kind of thing, in other words. Whether it deserves a spot on The Ocho after the lastest dodgeball game is up for debate.
Bliss's life as Babe Ruthless is a secret to her parents (Daniel Stern plays her easy-going father). Two nights a week she claims to be at an S.A.T. prep class but travels instead to Austin for the derby. Things come to a head when the derby championship game is scheduled for the same night as the Miss Bluebonnet Pageant.
Directed by Drew Barrymore, who also plays a derby teammate, Whip It is an interesting coming-of-age film. Bliss falls for a slightly older derby fan who plays in a local rock band. The romance is awkward, even in places where I'm sure it wasn't meant to be awkward. There is a scene in a swimming pool, for instance, that just doesn't quite work. There are other places where the film misses, too, including a wacky food fight, but the unevenness of the movie is overshadowed by the uniqueness of the subject matter, and I always score points for uniqueness. Still, one wonders how this movie fares with anybody else as the main character but Juno…er, I mean Ellen Page. It's a decent story, but one that might not have made it even once around the track without Ellen carrying it along.
There's an underlying intelligence to the universe (call it God, if you must) and it is our purpose to give this intelligence form and meaning. --G.S. Payne