Barrymore's Whip It Delivers

by Leonard Maltin
October 2, 2009 10:28 AM
3 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
Reelz Channel host Leonard Maltin reviews Drew Barrymore's Whip It this week.

Drew Barrymore has done herself proud. Her first directorial effort, Whip It, is a highly entertaining film that draws on several time-worn ingredients (coming of age, a fish out of water) and blend them with a female-empowerment theme to make something that’s fresh and fun. Barrymore first great choice was casting Ellen Page, fresh from Juno, to play the leading character, a high-school girl who grimly endures her mother’s insistence that she enter beauty pageants—until she finds a way to break free. Because the sport of roller derby is as foreign to her as it is to some of us in the audience, we share her gradual indoctrination to this unusual world and its lively denizens. By the time the film is over, we’re rooting for her, both on and off the track.

Whip It touches on a number of relatable themes, including the often-painful process of leaving old friends behind when you discover a new passion. But what I like most about Shauna Cross’ screenplay (adapted from her young-adult novel Derby Girl) is that it has a big heart. There are no real villains, just wrong-headed people who need to be enlightened, including Page’s mother (played by the wonderful Marcia Gay Harden) and a tough girl on the opposing team (Juliette Lewis) who’s determined to give Page as much grief as possible. Other supporting roles are well written and equally well played, by Alia Shawkat, Kristen Wiig, Andrew Wilson, Jimmy Fallon, Landon Pigg, Daniel Stern, and Barrymore herself, as one of Page’s flakier teammates.

Unlike some actor-directors, Barrymore seems determined to give herself as little screen time as possible, deliberately cutting away from shots involving her lest anyone think of the film as a vanity project. She needn’t have worried: she’s delivered the goods.

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3 Comments

  • Helen Wheels | October 3, 2009 8:16 AMReply

    for an ass-kicking documentary on the resurgence of derby (that started in Austin, Texas (which is also the setting for Whip It)), check out HELL ON WHEELS: www.hellonwheelsthemovie.com

  • indiemarketer | October 3, 2009 6:46 AMReply

    Too bad it doesn't deliver an audience

    $1.4-1.6M opening day on its way to $4-6M weekend

    So un-Searchlight like for a "playable" movie

    Should be sweet spot for young girl marketing experts over there

    Maybe Ellen Page and roller derby just aren't as popular

    Bring on Amelia and everyone's sweetheart Hilary Swank

  • Joe Valdez | October 2, 2009 11:58 AMReply

    I can't decide between Whip It, A Serious Man, Bright Star, The Invention of Lying or Zombieland to see on Sunday for a date. Maltin is a fantastic historian, but when has he ever had taste in whether a movie was good or bad? If you recommend I spend $11 on Whip It, Anne, I'll check it out.

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