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Whip It

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 10-09-2010


Hang onto your helmet and get ready to break away from the pack! Ellen Page scores huge laughs as Bliss Cavendar, a small-town teenager with a big dream: to find her own path in the world. Tired of following in her family’s footsteps of compliance and conformity, Bliss discovers a way to put her life on the fast track…literally. She lands a spot on a rough-and-tumble roller derby team and becomes “Babe Ruthless” — the hottest thing on eight wheels! Co-starring Dre… More >>

Whip It

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Comments (5)

“Whip It” is surprisingly good in spite of itself, conventional as a sports movie yet mature in its development of character. It’s also an entertaining spectacle, which is relief for me since I’ve never given much thought to women’s Roller Derby (or even sports in general, but that’s a topic for another day). Drew Barrymore has done well to hype it as her directorial debut; she proves that she not only has the technical skills, but also the ability to move a story along through dialogue, pacing, and emotion. Having practically grown up in front of the camera, I think it’s safe to assume she knows a thing or two about what a film needs in order for it to work. The first thing she did right was cast Ellen Page, who has repeatedly demonstrated just how versatile an actress she is.

She’s no exception here. She plays seventeen-year-old Bliss Cavendar, who was raised in a middle-of-nowhere Texas town and gets by as a diner waitress. Her overbearing mother, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), a product of a very different set of standards, pressures Bliss into competing in beauty pageants, believing you have to make do with what you’ve got when you’re young and attractive. When Bliss is made aware of a Roller Derby match in nearby Austin, she decides to go and see what all the fuss is about. Lo and behold, she likes what she sees. She then meets Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), a teammate for the Hurl Scouts, and is encouraged to try out for the team. Maggie is one of several teammates that has adopted a clever nickname; some of the other Hurl Scouts are Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore), Rosa Sparks (Eve), and the Manson Sisters (Kristen Adolfi and Rachel Piplica).

Under the guise of taking an SAT studies class, Bliss sneaks away to Austin every week for practice. Conflict abounds: Not only have the Hurl Scouts never won a single game, Bliss’ teammates are also unaware that she’s underage (you have to be twenty-one in order to be considered for Roller Derby). By the time she starts participating in matches, she develops a rivalry with Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis), the confrontational leader of undefeated champions of Roller Derby, the Holy Rollers. Nevertheless, Bliss has never felt more alive. At long last, she has found something she loves to do, and she does it with people she enjoys being around. Eventually, she will have to find and maintain that delicate balance between her passion, her family, and her life back home, a process that isn’t as easy as it might seem.

One could see this film just for the satisfaction of watching an uplifting, inspirational sports film, as has been done so many times before. For me, what made this movie so enjoyable were the characters, most so interesting and well developed that they seemed authentic. Bliss, for example, is willful and determined, yet not so haughty that she only seems like a spoiled brat. There’s a remarkably tender side to her, and yes, some of it is reserved for her mother. It would have been easy to write Brooke as a controlling, spiteful stereotype, but all of that is avoided–despite having unrealistic expectations and a dated ideal of successful womanhood, she genuinely cares about her daughter, and we sense that all throughout. The only character who poses a bit of a problem is Bliss’ father, Earl (Daniel Stern), seemingly included just for the sake of physically and morally clashing with his wife.

Other characters function as quirky interludes, like Bliss’ supportive best friend, Pash (Alia Shawkat), the Hurl Scouts’ eccentric coach, Razor (Andrew Wilson), and the boisterous Roller Derby announcer, “Hot Tub” Johnny Rocket (Jimmy Fallon). The screenplay even has room for a teen romance between Bliss and a guitarist named Oliver (Landon Pigg), who eventually swaps his coat for Bliss’ Stryper tee shirt (which she claims is the only cool thing her mother ever gave her). Most of these characters, the last one especially, are expected, as is the inevitable final match between the Hurl Scouts and the Holy Rollers. And yet, it all comes together smoothly, making for a fun and endearing film that you’ll want to see through to the end.

The game sequences are quite effective on their own, not only because of the well choreographed skating maneuvers, but also because of the camerawork; every shot exploits the spectacle that is Roller Derby, gliding in time with the actors as they zoom over and around each other on an inclined track. Other shots reveal the grungy feel of a Roller Derby event, from the makeshift arena to the ramshackle benches to the screaming fans, most of whom look no older than twenty. This is interesting in and of itself, given the fact that, save for Bliss, all the teammates are in their early to late thirties; one of them even has a young son. Knowing these women are mostly in it for the love of the game, one wonders how long Bliss can keep playing right alongside them. But if there is a message attached to “Whip It,” it has nothing to do with what the future may or may not bring; this movie is all about living in the now and loving every minute of it.
Rating: 4 / 5

It’s official: Until further notice, I will happily see any movie featuring Ellen Page. As in previous movies, Page does an outstanding job in bringing her angsty teenage character to life. This time, she’s a slightly lost seventeen year old being herded around by a pageant-passionate mother. The first glimmering that she might have goals of her own comes when she sees roller derby girls dropping off flyers for an upcoming event. Of course, she sneaks out to see it using a pretext transparent to everyone but her parents, and she is transfixed. After the show, she tells one of the skaters, “You guys are my heroes!” The tattooed derby girl answers, “Come to the tryout – be your own hero.” And she does.

The rest follows an inspiring and hilarious season of sneaking around the parents, doing her part to bring the last-place team to the championship. As you might expect, the poo hits the fan when pageant-panicked Mom finds out that her little beauty queen has another life as Babe Ruthless. I found the parent/teen flareups somewhat milder than realistic, but then the rapprochement was unconvincingly minor, too.

But, if that tension had been much tenser, a lot of the movie’s core fun would have been hidden. Barrymore, in her debut role as director, clearly had fun making this and the fun comes through in the final product. The girl-power, be-who-you-are messages come through without shrillness, and Page’s navigation of teen heartbreak leaves her character convincingly in the lead. One scene near the very end, her father with hammer in hand (wait for it) was a bit predictable, but satisfying none the less. As was the whole movie. I don’t always want a movie that takes itself too seriously. When you want a fun bit of fluff with plenty of physical comedy, give this one a shot. It’s well worth the time spent seeing it.

— wiredweird
Rating: 4 / 5

Roller Derby. I can easily remember turning on the television and watching the Los Angeles T-Birds. Personally, I didn’t know if this was a true sport or if it was like wrestling and it was just sports entertainment. But I was hooked. Not sure if it was the blonde women with poofy hair throwing other women out of the rink or that one person who didn’t look should be on the rink, actually kicking butt. Needless to say, that roller derby has had its following for decades and now here we are with a film based on a character who takes part in roller derby competitions.

“Whip It” marks the directorial debut by actress Drew Barrymore (“E.T.”, “50 First Dates”, “The Wedding Singer”, “Charlie’s Angels” films) and is an adaptation of the novel “Derby Girl” by Shauna Cross, a fictionalized book of skating with the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls.

The independent film was released in theaters during the fall of 2009 and now makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut. The Blu-ray edition comes with a second disc which contains a digital copy of the film.


“Whip It” is presented in 1080 High Definition (Widescreen 2:40:1), AVC @ 36 MBPS. The film sports vibrant colors with the Hurl Scouts green outfits, while amber lights shine on the roller derby rink. You can see details in the surroundings, especially injuries ala bloody noses to bruises. Even the tattoos on Kristen Wiig are seen much clearly on HD. Skin tones are natural and blacks are nice and deep. Everything is visible from the freckles of Pash, to the sweat and tears of Bliss and the other girls during competition or the more emotional scenes of the film. I will say that at first, I thought this was a period film shot in the ’80s but you realize that the film focuses on Bliss living in a very small town.

There is a fine amount of grain in the film and I didn’t notice any compression artifacts, banding or any sign of DNR. A solid Blu-ray release in terms of PQ from Fox.

As for the audio, “Whip It” is featured in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is front and center channel driven. Dialogue and music are both crystal clear but there is minimal use of surrounds. You can hear crowd ambiance and the women racing on the rink and hitting the side rails and hearing the skates but its not immersive as I would have hoped but still, the film is not all about the roller derby and there are plenty of dialogue scenes and music-driven scenes that are very clear, with some songs having a nice kick of bass. A pretty interesting soundtrack as well from ’80s 38 Special’s “Caught Up in You” to music from the Ramones and the Breeders.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.


“Whip It” comes with a digital copy of the film and comes with a few special features:

* Deleted Scenes – (16:14) Included is an alternate opening and eight deleted scenes.

* Fox Movie Channel Presents Writer’s Draft: Shauna Cross of “Whip It” – (3:04) A short featurette with an interview with novel and screenwriter Shauna Cross about “Whip It”.

* Whip It Soundtrack Spot – (:32) A promotional for the “Whip It” soundtrack.


“Whip It” may seem like a film about roller derby and the antics that go behind-the-scenes of the sport but truthfully, the film has many layers. From a coming-of-age film, a relationship movie and a girl power film, there are a good number of things going on in this film that there is far much more to enjoy than expected.

I have to admit that Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut definitely shows promise. The actress has starred in so many films since she was a child and has worked with a good number of quality director’s, I had no doubt that she would do a pretty solid job.

Part of the challenge of “Whip It” is bringing together this wild bunch of characters that the character Bliss associates with and then bringing this other side of her life as a teenager from a small town, having an overbearing pageant mother and working at a fast food restaurant while trying to maintain her friendship with her high school friends and then finding love. Definitely not an easy task for Barrymore but one thing she does have is the original author Shauna Cross involved with the screenplay and she has a talented actress in Ellen Page in the main role.

At first glance, I didn’t know if Page can pull of such a role but as she did with “Juno” she manages to pull of Bliss very well for “Whip It”.

As for the other supporting characters, personally I don’t if roller derby lifestyles are similar to what is depicted in the movie. As much as I do enjoy Barrymore’s directorial debut, her role as Smashley Simpson is a bit too much while I do feel Kristen Wiig manages to pull off another solid supporting role like she has done in “Extract” and Juliette Lewis still does a great job in portraying the bad girl. Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern (who plays Bliss’s father) also do a good job as the parents of Bliss.

As for the Blu-ray, the picture quality for the film was very good and the lossless audio was satisfactory but it would have been great to have it a bit more immersive via use of the surround channels. And it would have been great to have audio commentary by Barrymore and Shauna Cross or even a featurette on how the talent prepared for the film or even Behind-the-scenes footage. I felt the special features were a bit short for this Blu-ray release. But as for the film, “Whip It” is an entertaining, humorous and a solid coming-of-age, feel-good style of film. And again, although roller derby does play a big part in this film, “Whip It” is not an all out sports movie. The film has many layers to it and fortunately, the solid performances definitely made this film enjoyable.

Overall, “Whip It” is a solid directorial debut from Drew Barrymore and fine performances by Ellen Page and its supporting cast makes this film better than expected.
Rating: 3 / 5

Loved the movie even more than the book, Derby Girl, upon which the movie was based. Ellen Page softened the character of Bliss and I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. The supporting cast was wonderful. The movie expanded the storyline perfectly while maintaining much of the dialogue straight from the book and best of all expanded the derby action. Kudos to Drew Barrymore in her directing debut and in her supporting role. D.B. obviously gravitates towards the girl power genre while having the knack of toning it down just enough to be enjoyable to general audiences. I truly hope the author or a screen writer comes up with a clever sequel because this was a ride that ended way too soon.
Rating: 5 / 5

Much more fun than I was expecting, `Whip It’ is the equivalent of girl power personified by the coming of age inevitableness of life. With a sharp and witty directorial debut by Drew Barrymore (who doesn’t just LOVE her?), and a great cast (seriously, this ensemble is better than nearly every ensemble SAG chose to nominate), `Whip It’ is a whole lot of fun; period.

The film revolves around a young and awkward teenager named Bliss. Her mother is controlling and her father avoids confrontation at all costs. Bliss is a social outcast (as is made clear in the opening scene, she only has one friend) who is longing for something that makes her even slightly happy. That is when a stroke of odd luck places her in the right place at the right time. She catches a glimpse of happiness in the form of roller derby chicks. After attending her first match, and officially declaring the roller clad females her new heroes, Bliss is persuaded to try-out for the team. She smudges her age and lies to her parents and soon becomes the new `it’ girl on the roller derby circuit.

Bliss Cavendar by day, Babe Ruthless by night.

I really like Ellen Page. I really think that she is headed places. Between her Oscar nominated turn in `Juno’, her stunning (and quite different) turn in the previous years `Hard Candy’ and now her memorable and touching performance here she has really proven she has range and is not just a one-trick pony (as some tried to make claim to after her `Smart People’ performance proved to be very similar to her `Juno’ one). She finds a real soul in Bliss, exploiting (in a good way) everything that makes her, and her alter-ego, so special.

Really, it is the acting (and Drew’s brisk direction) that makes this film a must see.

Mrs. Harden is always in top form for me and I really enjoy watching her act, so she was a delight for me. She breathes life into a clichéd character (very clichéd when you think about it) and makes her feel fresh and new. Alia Shawkat is splendid as Bliss’s best friend Pash, and the nerdy Carlo Alban is effective, even if the film isn’t really interested in him. Landon Pigg is a stock boyfriend, but he has this boyish charm to him that makes him endearing even if he is rather unattractive. Jimmy Fallon and Andrew Wilson really make the most of their characters (Fallon is especially funny) and Daniel Stern is sweet and tender as Bliss’s father (the scene in the van in particular is a subtle yet heart tugging moment of paternal affection).

And then you have all the roller derby ladies!

Kristen Wiig, Eve, Drew Barrymore, Zoe Bell and especially Juliette Lewis are all in top form. Wiig delivers her lines with a soft and affectionate tone that makes her feel like a real person (and that mother/daughter talk in the car was especially effective, endearing without every coming over sappy and out of place for the films humorous direction). Barrymore demoted herself to slapstick sidekick, but she is HILARIOUS! Lewis takes the cake for me with her ferocious take on Iron Mavon, Babe Ruthless’s arch nemesis. She appears like a stock villain in the beginning, with a little extra kick to make her pop out at you, but as the film progresses and she has her confrontation with Bliss you really see the other side to this woman, and remarkably Lewis was able to evoke a real sense of painful anger in her voice.

Like I said, this ensemble is stellar.

There are some plot holes. It strikes me as rather ridiculous to conclude that Bliss could attend all those games without her very strict mother ever catching on. Sure, she lied and had some alibis in the beginning, but she was out a lot and late at night, so it didn’t really make sense. The general plot point of Bliss alienating herself after finding something `new’ seemed a little `been there done that’, as did her conflicts with her mother, but they are forgivable. The love interest side plot was a little predictable and kind of silly, but I like the directorial flourishes (the love scene in the pool, while `strange’, was engaging and interesting to watch) found within it.

In the end I was very satisfied with this film. I give it a very high B (B+ even) and strongly recommend it for any fan of the genre or the cast. It is sweet, funky, witty and ultimately full of enough to win you over completely.
Rating: 4 / 5

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