{Movie Review} WHIP IT

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If you're looking for a visual reminder of how wickedly fierce girls in sports can be, check out the movie Whip It  based on the novel DERBY GIRL (later re-published and renamed WHIP IT) by Shauna Cross. Roller Derby is a fiercely competitive, active contact sport. There are bloody noses and bruises. There's also a lot of action and excitement.

Bliss falls in love with the idea of roller derby after grabbing a flyer for an upcoming exhibition when shopping with her mom. She's immediately interested, but has to sneak out with her friend Pash. Her mother would never approve of such an outing. She's knees-deep in the world of pageants, especially since the upcoming Miss Blue Bonnet crown is about to make all her dreams come true. She desperately wants Bliss to win, but Bliss has no interest in pageants outside of pleasing her mother. It's only when she decides to secretly try out for roller derby--and makes the team--that she truly comes alive. She falls for the sport, makes new friends, and even gets into her first serious relationship. But secrets can't be kept forever, and the one Bliss is harboring has the potential to rock her family's world.

There's so much going on in Whip It  It's a movie about athletic girls. It's a movie about family. It's a movie about discovering yourself. There are so many labels, but none encompass all that the movie is. I liked the way Bliss and her family played such an integral role in the movie. Even if they don't always get along, there are genuine feelings involved. Both her mother and father change a lot by the movie's end. I would assume you feel this in more detail when reading the novel, but I haven't read it, so I can't say for sure. I do know, however, that author Shauna Cross also wrote the movie's screenplay. She's also a professional roller derby player, and a lot of Whip It is based on her experience. Some of the characters share names and titles with real players, including Maggie Mayhem, a central character in the movie based on Cross' own roller derby pseudonym. I thought this inclusion was really cool.  All of the names the roller derby players used were fun (Bliss' was Babe Ruthless), and so were the themes and costumes by the various groups (Bliss played for the Hurl Scouts, based on real-life LA team Tough Cookies, both of which borrow their theme from the Girl Scouts). That added an extra element of fun, and I always loved hearing everyone's names.

Whip It has a nice indie movie feel to it.  There are scenes that remind me of elements from some indie favorites in terms of the quirky ways people experience relationships, while still being unique and interesting. This was the second time I'd ever seen Ellen Page in a movie, the first being her performance as the much-lauded JUNO. She once again showed off her acting chops in Whip It  proving that she would be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. Page has since gone on to act in highly-acclaimed movies such as INCEPTION, and will next suit up as Kitty Pryde for 2014's surefire summer hit X-MEN: Days of Future Past. Whip It also marked the directing debut of Drew Barrymore, who showed everyone that she wasn't just a pretty face. She knows how to bring heart to a story. I was also impressed by her decision to appear in the movie as a minor character. So many times, we hear about actors directing movies or creating their own production companies, and they're always the star of every title they produce. Barrymore isn't afraid to take the backseat and share the spotlight. The scenes she does appear in as Smashley Simpson still manage to shine, while never stealing thunder from the story. I was impressed by the way she handled her role in the film, and applaud her for her smart decisions.

If you're looking for a fun, thoughtful coming of age story with few annoyances, check out Whip It. It has a lot more depth than you might initially think, and the investment of time is worth the pay-off in the end.

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Shauna Cross
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2007
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. / Macmillan

Meet Bliss Cavendar, a blue haired, indie-rock loving misfit stuck in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas. 

Her pageant-addicted mother expects her to compete for the coveted Miss Blue Bonnet crown, but Bliss would rather feast on roaches than be subjected to such rhinestone tyranny. 

Bliss' escape? Take up Roller Derby. 

When she discovers a league in nearby Austin, Bliss embarks on an epic journey full of hilarious tattooed girls, delicious boys in bands, and a few not-so-awesome realities even the most bad-assed derby chick has to learn.