WHIP IT ***

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BLISS CAVENDER (ELLEN PAGE) is trapped in a world that she has no connection to.

Outwardly she is a typical 17 year old. Her manner is generally quiet and soft spoken.

But a savage streak of rebellion is about to take hold that will change her life forever.

Bliss’ mother BROOKE (MARCIA GAY HARDEN) appears to be a difficult hardliner that will tolerate no opposition. But she and her husband EARL (DANIEL STERN) make their expectations known only out of concern. They genuinely want the best for their daughter.

Though they initially seem authoritarian when they’re first introduced into the mix, as the film unfolds you can understand how much they care. They feel that it’s important to have a united front and let their girls know who’s in charge.

But they’re both considerably more fun loving and hip when they’re alone together – away from the prying eyes of their children.

Brooke has been putting Bliss in beauty pageants for years. Bliss’ younger sister SHANIA (EULALA SCHEEL) is a little princess that loves the surreal falseness of those Barbie type spectaculars.

Bliss feels empty and horrifically bored by it all.

Bliss is a gorgeous girl next door type. But her outward appearance is not of any real importance to her. She’s only doing the pageant circuit to pacify her mother. She’d give her right arm to get the hell out of Bodeen, Texas.

This is certainly not her idea of a stepping stone.

Just before she’s about to walk on stage and sing the praises of the admirable Amelia Earheart, Bliss’ best friend PASH (ALIA SHAWKAT) talks Bliss into dyeing her hair a bright blue.

Brooke is thoroughly unamused.

In the days that follow, Brooke senses Bliss’ remoteness. She suggests a shopping trip in Austin to boost her spirits.

Once there, Bliss finds some shoes that she wants to purchase. When Brooke discovers that the shop is a virtual den of iniquity with a nasty reputation, she protests vigorously.

Bliss buys the shoes while her mother is arguing with her father on the phone. While they happen to be there, some hard core punky girls (tattoos and all) skate into the store and leave a stack of flyers for a roller derby event at the cavernous Austin Warehouse.

Bliss is immediately mesmerized. A short time later she makes an excuse to her parents and gets Pash to accompany her back to Austin to witness the event. Roller derby is tough, harsh, bold, brassy…and an incredible amount of fun.

Bliss bumps into a dreamy boy on the way in. As they prepare to leave, sitting in Pash’s car, Bliss informs her that she wants to go to a try out. She has to be 21. But Bliss doesn’t care. This is something that she simply can’t pass up.

“You haven’t got the balls,” Pash scoffs. Bliss gazes out the window. Straight across the parking lot the dreamy boy smiles shyly at her, then looks away when he sees her glancing at him.

That’s it. Her mind is made up.

Bliss definitely has the stones.

Pash refuses to return to Austin with her. She disagrees with Bliss’ ideas and can’t understand why she feels it’s necessary for her to do this.

So Bliss takes the bus to Austin by herself. She’s ready for her try out.

She makes it. Bliss tells her parents that she’s changing her days of work (she’s a server at the local BBQ joint) so that she can take an SAT class. It’s much easier than attempting to obtain their permission.

She’s sure they’ll say no.

A new world (the likes of which she’s never experienced) opens up to her. Bliss is tiny. But she can skate hard and fast. The exhilaration just fuels her fire. She loves every moment she’s out there.

She joins THE HURL SCOUTS and is dubbed BABE RUTHLESS. BLISS CAVENDER has finally found her calling at last.

Her teammates include MAGGIE MAYHEM (KRISTEN WIIG), ROSA SPARKS (EVE) and SMASHLEY SIMPSON (the esteemed director of this film).

Their coach is a throwback from the 70s. RAZOR McGEE (ANDREW WILSON – the brother of OWEN and LUKE) drives a dune buggy, wears jean shorts and has scruffy blond streaked hair that looks like it came from a dead animal.

He’s actually a decent guy. (Though he looks suspiciously like a burn out.) Razor is inclined to be critical of the women he coaches. But he really has a great affection for all of them.

The other team that opposes Bliss’ is called THE HOLY ROLLERS. They’re headed by the diabolical IRON MAVEN (the raucously electric JULIETTE LEWIS). She is threatened by the brilliant newcomer and is determined to cut her down regardless of the obstacles involved.

In the course of this world class passion, Bliss becomes acquainted with the dreamboat OLIVER (LANDON PIGG).

Every girl of a certain age has had an Oliver in her life.

He’s the boy that you shag in your parents’ basement when they’re out of town, the guy that you deliberately avoid because you’re too nervous to talk to him in class or the precious young man that gives you butterflies every time you see him.

Sometimes all three in one year…

Oliver is tall, slender, has tousled sandy locks, a killer smile and great eyes.

He also sings in a band.

Sensory overload awaits.

Between her relationship and the outlet that she has for her existential teenage angst, Bliss is feeling contented and confident.

But her ecstacy appears to be short lived.

If her parents find out about her extracurricular activities, she will be in serious trouble. If anyone in the league hears that she’s really 17, there will be an equal amount of hell to pay. Bliss discovers that the pageant that she promised her mother that she’d attend is the same evening as the roller derby championships.

Oliver’s band is going away on tour and he seems strangely nonchalant and hard to reach on an emotional level.

Bliss is starting to feel like everything she cares about is slipping away – completely out of her control. She begins to wonder if she overstepped her bounds in her eagerness to find herself and be independent.

SHAUNA CROSS’ script is an adaptation of her novel DERBY GIRL. She was a former skater with the LOS ANGELES DERBY DOLLS. Her writing is sharp, realistic and wickedly funny.

Ms. Cross has a solid comprehension of the mother/daughter dynamic. Those scenes are exquisitely drawn.

The great bombastic soundtrack includes songs from BLUR, THE BREEDERS, PEACHES, .38 SPECIAL and a cover of THE ASSOCIATION’S NEVER MY LOVE over the end credits.

The actors are in top form across the board. They are all authentic looking athletes as well. It certainly appears as if they did their own stunts. Even if it didn’t happen that way.

ALIA SHAWKAT is a real find with great promise. KRISTEN WIIG is a marvelous standout. JULIETTE LEWIS may be a superb singer but she should never walk away from her film career. She plays every girl’s reckless nightmare in wonderfully flamboyant fashion and goes to the wall with it.

ELLEN PAGE is remarkable. She will have everything that she wants in terms of an artistic future. It’s only a matter of time.

She has the kind of star quality that is exceptionally rare. Her performances in HARD CANDY and JUNO were obviously only the beginning.

Bliss is introspective, thoughtful and more outwardly tranquil than the other characters she’s portrayed. Ellen has powerful charisma.

You can not look away. She’s fabulous.

DREW BARRYMORE is a fine actor particularly suited to comedies. But here she really comes into her own. Her directorial debut is strong and accomplished.

Romantic sequences have been done to death. You can’t reinvent the wheel at this particular juncture. But Drew nearly does the impossible.

There are a series of scenes that leave no doubt in your mind that Bliss had her first full blown consummated experience with Oliver. But yet nothing overt or explicit is ever shown.

It’s just beautiful, rapturous, enveloping poetry. Their romance is taken to lofty mythologized heights.

You certainly don’t expect that kind of lovely languid swoon worthy sweetness in a movie about tough determined chicks who tear up the rink twice a week just for fun. But Drew is equally at ease with the performers and the ubiquitous action scenes.

Her versatility is astonishing. There were many different facets that needed to be integrated and they all flow together magnificently.

WHIP IT is a real achievement. This could easily have been a nonsensical moronic comedy about girl power with no depth or discernable layers to it.

Instead, it’s the moving (and hilarious) story of a young woman and how she finds her place in the world. She does it entirely without the influence of her family or the guy that she’s involved with.

And it’s all about her – her dreams, her goals, her wishes and desires.

Ms. Barrymore is part of a legendary theatrical and motion picture family. This is a thoroughly splendid first effort that showcases her immense gifts as a filmmaker. It will be extremely interesting to see what she has in store as the years roll by.

Absolutely can not wait for that…

7 Responses to “WHIP IT ***”

  1. i liked this a lot more than juno. (ok i didn’t like juno.) so it makes sense whip it will struggle to make even 10% of what juno did.

    so does whip it prove ellen page isn’t a box office draw???

    oh, i forgot no one is box office draw nowadays. well you know what i mean.

    very few exceptions…

    and as noted at box office prophets has fox searchlight ever had success attempting to open something wide its first week in release???

    i don’t think so…

  2. I loved JUNO.

    I was thrown for a loop because it’s not my type of film. I saw it four times. It’s #8 on my 2007 TOP TEN. In my estimation it’s a four star film (out of five).

    I thought ELLEN was incredible. Genuinely deserved that OSCAR nomination. She was amazing.

    DREW is going to make an exceptional director. For a debut, this was particularly polished. All that swoon worthy romance was flawlessly layered over this narrative about these wild chicks – some of the toughest girls in Austin.

    Ms. Barrymore is going to be a phenomenal filmmaker.

    Hmmm. I think ELLEN did a couple films after JUNO that weren’t big things financially. But that’s no knock against her. That girl is a star. Plus one of them was this little fledging Canadian effort that never would have taken in an enormous amount of money in any case.

    That is correct. The days of popular and adored actors driving the box office are just about over. Something new is coming down the pike…and then I imagine the pendulum will swing back again.

    But I’m glad that you dig WHIP IT, glim. I think it’s one of the best pictures of the year.

    As for FOX SEARCHLIGHT…

    THE FULL MONTY was a huge success in England as well as stateside.

    How did it do on its opening weekend?

    Just asking…

  3. full monty

    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=fullmonty.htm

    check that low opening weekend total.

    but again seems the full monty opened limited and then at whatever point went to a wider scale. an approach fox searchlight has has success with…

    from a recent boxofficeprophets page.

    whip it opened in 1,720. yep that many the first weekend.

    and m. please read the words on whip it in this bop thing.

    proof that maybe i am cool. i read bop despite never seeing it get a ref on movie blogs. this is truly embarrassing. for the other sites that is.

    http://www.boxofficeprophets.com/column/index.cfm?columnID=12084&cmin=10&columnpage=5

  4. ellen was in smart people post juno. but i don’t think that was seen as her film. i mean she wasn’t the star of that film was she?? and wasn’t that film an ensemble or whatever….???

    i wasn’t expecting whip it to be as big as juno. but i was think it was gonna have well much nicer box office than it has.

    i thought there could be more goodwill towards ellen page that would have posted box office a lot. i mean juno was dialogue/character driven. and so much of the praise/attention went to juno, you know she was played by well ellen page.

    so i saw whip it as ellen’s first post juno will she draw box office? test.

    and despite being in good film and my liking her much more than i did in juno, sort of nothing.

    you could have put out some generic horror film with no name cast and got a bigger first weekend/second weekend at the box office type thing. as huge as juno was and with the accessiblity/themes of this movie i was thinking some box office gold here. or at least something sort of golden and if not golden will at least something ok as far as box office goes.

    but no…

    where were all the kids/hipsters that wouldn’t shut up about juno???? and you wonder why i don’t trust them.

    oh and where the wild things are just sucks.

    so yep i didn’t like it which partly explains why it’s having a massively crappy weekend.

    if i’m stupid enough to watch a film with any sort of kid angle in the future. well i hope i don’t fall for that again.

    oh well at least it wasn’t a pixar film…

  5. Hmmm…

    THE FULL MONTY only made $45,000,000 domestically? I wasn’t aware of that. But I see it made about $250,000,000 world wide.

    It was (at that time) the highest grossing comedy in Britain. But I don’t know if that particular stat sticks to the wall as of now.

    Don’t know why its totals aren’t higher. I saw it eight times in the cinema. You would’ve thought that that would’ve had a substantial impact.

    *rolls emerald green eyes*

    I loved that flick. It was hysterical. Great to see a film about what guys are really like – vulnerabilities, quirks and all. ROBERT CARLYLE, TOM WILKINSON and MARK ADDY were all fantastic.

    The fact that they stripped was just icing on the cake. As it were.

    Every time I went the men were the ones in the audience who were always laughing the hardest. Damn, that was a fun movie.

    glim, I never said you weren’t cool. You are too awesome. Take a realization pill. Please, honey.

    But I must confess that when I need info of that type I always jump over to BOX OFFICE MOJO.

    I was on the verge of going to see SMART PEOPLE (mostly because of ELLEN) and then I heard some negative things about it that stuck with me. So I promptly forgot about it.

    Doesn’t seem like I missed much.

    I don’t know what FOX SEARCHLIGHT could have done with WHIP IT. They’ve had a lot of box office successes and have nurtured plenty of potential OSCAR winners into the nomination circle.

    But they could’ve done something. Sounds like they didn’t have much faith in it and never really pushed it.

    That’s a wicked shame. WHIP IT is a wonderful film. It’s a movie that DREW can definitely be proud of.

    As for WILD THINGS…

    Well, I don’t care for Spike Jonze. I don’t have the childhood fascination and affection for the novel that some people have. It always looked like an odd project.

    For me personally (I’m emphatically speaking for no one else), it had MUST TO AVOID written all over it.

    Not to worry, my precious glimby. There are lots of awesome films coming up.

    NINE’S being released at Christmastime.

    Hold onto your hat. That should be something to celebrate.

    Besides CHRISTMAS, I mean…

  6. Nothing would surprise me, glimster.

    I believe DREW has given several interviews where she’s stated that she’s bisexual.

    But I don’t think it matters in any case.

    They’re both grown women. They can do as they please.

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