Monday, 16 August 2010

WHIP IT DVD review

Drew Barrymore's directorial debut Whip It is out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week. 
Hit the jump for the trailer and more details...





Tired of the beauty pageant circuit that her mother expects to be a part of, 17 year old Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) decides to look for something new and exciting in her life, helped along the way by her best friend Pash (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat). Before long Bliss is lying to her parents and sneaking out of the house for some clandestine adventures. Now, I've always been told that teenage girls like to experiment, but Roller Derby wasn't quite what I'd pictured.


Bliss has managed to find a curious outlet for her anger and feelings of apathy, and it involves getting dressed up and skating round a track faster than the other girls. The rules of Roller Derby, frankly, don't matter. It's just an excuse to roll around on skates and smack into each other, kind of like a female Fight Club with cool nicknames. Bliss aka 'Babe Ruthless' is soon the hottest girl on the scene, and starts to gain the attention of all the cool Austin crowd that alluded her back in her small home town. Her mother would not approve.


Barrymore's got her dream cast here. All of the older skaters are played by trendy hipster icons like Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig, and if you're looking for a couple of 'alternative' young starlets to play your leads, who better than Maebe Funke and Juno MacGuff?


It's a bit of a strange film when viewed in relation to other teenage girl coming-of-age films of recent years such as Mean Girls. Both lead girls share a desire to be part of the cool crowd, but this film is more of a drama that skews itself towards a slightly older audience. It shares more in common with Juno, another film that purposely avoids the mainstream.


It's very hip, but knowingly so. They take a trip around downtown Austin, passing by some Daniel Johnson graffiti and taking in a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. It also has an awesome Indie soundtrack compiled by Randall Poster, Wes Anderson's regular music supervisor; although I do think they missed a trick by not putting Devo on there. To continue the independent theme, Barrymore's even managed to get one of the Wilson brother's in the film, even if it Andrew. Sometimes these touches make the film slightly 'Indie by numbers' and unsure of its own identity, but when it verges towards superficiality, it's anchored by a good cast.


The older Hurl Scouts act like the worst role models ever, and can't take anything seriously in life, with perhaps the exception of Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), who is able to offer Bliss some advice during her mini-existential crisis. Drew Barrymore, surprisingly, has relegated herself to a background role, but as this was her first time behind the camera it's good to see she wanted to get that job right. Juliette Lewis brings a kind of world weariness to her role that acts as shorthand for all of these women. They're damaged, and not just physically. Marcia Gay Harden also stands out as Bliss's Mum, only one good sermon away from turning into her religious nut from The Mist.


The two younger girls are the highlight of the film. Pash hasn't found something to set herself apart like Bliss has. She's somewhat lost in the wilderness waiting to hear back from Colleges to see if she has a future outside of this small town. Alia Shawkat is always entertaining whenever she's on screen, and the film could have done with a bit more of her. It's a solid lead performance from Ellen Page, who once again proves she can do more than spout smart-ass dialogue. It's her film, and she brings a dramatic clout you usually don't find in teen movies.


Drew Barrymore's done a good job here with her first directing role. It's unashamedly hip and girly, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what she does next.


Verdict



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