Beauty in the Movies: Whip It

I wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much as I did. I’ve had moments where I’ve found Drew Barrymore incredibly annoying, but recently I’ve been liking her. It could be that she is one of the few people in Hollywood who has the pull, and the desire, to make more films about women.

Whip It is the story of Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), a high school outcast in her Texas town of Bodeen. Her beauty pageant obsessed mother (Marcia Gay Harden) keeps Bliss on a tight leash and is mortified when Bliss seems less than thrilled about the world of pageants. Bliss and her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) dream of escaping their “hick town” while working at local eatery—”The Oink Joint” where they wear aprons with pigs on them. After discovering a Roller Derby flier while shopping with her mom in Austin, Bliss and Pash trick their parents into letting them attend. By the end of the night Bliss has a new dream, and despite being only 17 (the league’s only requirement is that you be 21) she sneaks out to the auditions for the team and makes the cut.

Bliss joins the Hurl Scouts, the league’s underdog team who have never won a game. The team also includes Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore), Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), Rosa Sparks (Eve), and Bloody Holly (Zoe Bell), their frustrated coach is played by Andrew Wilson (he’s the third Wilson Brother, as in Luke and Owen). As you can imagine there are some great sports montages and team bonding. There is also a boy, (Landon Pigg) and a great soundtrack. Juliette Lewis captains the league champions, and the Scouts biggest competition, the Holy Rollers, she is pitch perfect as the bitchy, mean, cool-girl you love to hate, but can’t actually hate at all because it’s Juliette Lewis and she’s awesome. There is also a charming performance by Daniel Stern, looking much changed from his Home Alone days, as Bliss’s dopey, but sweet dad.

What’s really freaking great about this movie is that it portrays female relationships with honesty, in a completely un-sappy way. Pash and Bliss have a relationship that reminded me of the ones I had with my close friends in high school. You do stupid things to each other, and then it hurts really bad, but you know you messed up—and then you cry a lot. In this film you understand the characters motivations, you care about them and they feel convincing too, which is a triumph because Ellen Page as a Rolly Derby girl could easily be hard to believe.

This film handles the mother daughter relationship in a way I haven’t seen in too many movies. In a lot of films there are moments where a mother and daughter who fail to see eye to eye have a moment of understanding, but you never really believe they love and care about each other in a profound way. Often, the mother especially, is a cardboard cut-out of an overbearing mother. In this film, you feel the pain on both ends of the conflict, and you see how a mother and daughter can be completely different, and yet need and love one another even when it’s hard to. This isn’t Gordon Bombay dealing with his daddy issues as it relates to the sports competition at hand (I had to get a Mighty Ducks reference in there). This isn’t just a sports movie, it’s also a coming of age story, and it’s about family, friends, and the search to find what you love.

There is also a pretty cool underwater make-out scene.

While my Fiancé and I were watching this movie he turned to me and said “You know, Drew Barrymore makes movies about girls having fun”, and as Cyndi Lauper taught us, that’s really all we want isn’t it? There are a lot of movies where women are trying to find love, or trying to be sexy, but there aren’t too many where they’re trying to find themselves and having a whole lot of fun while doing it. You can tell everyone involved in this movie had a good time, and it really shows through and gives it a great energy. I hope Drew Barrymore continues to make films like this, whether she produces them or directs them, because there is a sad lack of fun female movies available, and us girls really do just want to have fun don’t we?

Put this film on your Netflix queue people, it’s a good time—if you don’t like it, I give you full permission to send me angry e-mails.

Have a GREAT Labor day weekend everyone!! Have some fun, hang out with good people and eat some tasty food, and I’ll see you back here next week!

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6 Comments

Filed under Beauty in the movies

6 responses to “Beauty in the Movies: Whip It

  1. mkz201

    I haven’t seen it yet because I find both Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore a bit insufferable. But if you think it’s good, I’ll give it a try.

    • Justine

      It’s definitely worth a try. It’s kind of like Ben it like Beckham, and I know you like Juliette Lewis right? So it’s worth it for her, and also Maeby from Arrested Development too! Plus, it’s a girl movie that isn’t about something depressing or weddings or sappy romance, so just for that it’s way better than so many other things!

  2. haren

    Going to put it in my Netflix cue.

  3. cecilia

    i recently introduced this movie to my brother, he loved it. and the promotional interviews with ellen page and alia shawkat are really funny.

  4. The relationship between Daniel Stern and Marcia Gay Harden alone make this movie worth seeing. It seems as though they have nothing in common (sports loving dad/ pageant loving mom), and yet somehow whenever they are together they really feel like a couple. There are lots of cute little moments between them, and they are so at ease in each others company, that it feels believable. It’s nice.

    The good out weighs the bad, I think Drew puts a good spin on the under dog genre. It’s like Ghost World meets the Mighty Ducks. Definitley not perfect but a good ride!

  5. Jennifer

    My friend described this as “an almost perfect movie.” We saw it twice and she owns the DVD. I linked it to her on FB so I hope she reads it.

    There are so many wonderful things about the movie, and you’ve hit on all of them.
    Thanks!

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