Teenage pregnancy? Dream espionage? Revenge on a sex offender? Ellen Page has already done it all, right? But if Page was only ever known for one movie, Juno, Inception and Hard Candy would all have to step aside for Whip It.
Whip It is the coming-of-age story of Bliss Cavendar, a 17-year-old Texan unwillingly immersed in beauty pageant culture until she discovers roller derby as a way out. After taking a trip to Austin to watch a bout, she launches into a double life, straddling between her dead-end hometown and her newfound, big city escape.
Like most stories of its kind, Whip It follows the main character’s education about friendship, love, and finding one’s identity. But what makes Whip It special is its transcendence of gender. In other words, dudes should love this movie just as much as women do (and not just because of the eye candy).
Instead of settling for being a girls-just-wanna-have-fun dramedy, first-time director Drew Barrymore uses multi-dimensional characters to tell a story with which all audiences can identify. Bliss’s relationships with her mother and father reflect the kind of pressure that people understand from their own lives growing up. Daniel Stern (Breaking Away, Home Alone) and Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, The Mist) triumph as typical American parents, who want what’s best for their children, even against strong resistance.
The friends Bliss makes through roller derby are the liberating counter to Bliss’s stifling family life. Led by Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig, Bliss’s second family opens her eyes to a new world of self-realization, making her beauty pageant life seem even more horrific. The strong female personalities of Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, rapper-turned-actress Eve, stuntwoman-turned-actress Zoë Bell, and others, champion an idea that everyone should embrace: being pretty means nothing if you can’t kick some ass.
Love and acceptance of individuality as the main themes for Whip It match perfectly with the essence of roller derby. The uncanny fit of the story and its backdrop launches this movie into the class of sports classics like Breaking Away. Most audiences will miss the comparisons because a) guys will be too busy staring at cool women to make the connection and b) most girls haven’t seen Breaking Away.
But let Marz Daily Media put everyone on notice that Whip It is a must-see for people who have lost hope in the feel-good potential of movies. For quality performances, good laughs, and heart-pumping action, one could do worse than watching Ellen Page get involved in every aspect.
All that said, it’s ridiculous how cute she is, especially without a pregnant belly. Damn.