Film Reviews

New in Film: Whip It

Drew Barrymore, making her directorial debut, is blunt onscreen and off about her inspirations for this tale of an anguished debutante-turned-roller grrrl. Take a little bit of Peter Yates' Breaking Away (a teen townie trying to escape his humdrum existence and Dad on a ten-speed), toss in Adrian Lyne's Foxes (bored suburban girls screwing and drinking to Boston and Donna Summer), and add John Hughes' Pretty in Pink (good girl makes bad choice in boy) and a bit of George Roy Hill's Slap Shot (sports violence as metaphor for outsider's struggle). The only thing that keeps Barrymore's effort from playing like an American Movie Classics rerun is the soundtrack, an alterna-rock all-skate to which Juno's Ellen Page goes 'round and 'round an Austin, Texas, roller-derby rink during her rather sudden rise from klutz on wheels to girl-power poster child. Page's beauty queen Bliss Cavendar is ultimately the least interesting character in the film. Her more-good-than-bad youth in revolt clashes with an overbearing but well-meaning Mom (Marcia Gay Harden), a sweet but disinterested Dad (Breaking Away's Daniel Stern), the best friend with big plans (Alia Shawkat), and the mopey-dopey indie rocker (Landon Pigg, a singer/songwriter making his, um, acting debut). Highlights: Andrew Wilson as the roller girls' coach (ah, so there's the Wilson brother who can act) and the roller-derby vets (played especially well by Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig), about whom we learn just enough to wish the movie were focused on them instead.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky