EBFS loves a good sport’s picture, we sometimes love a mediocre one…….every so often we even watch Varsity Blues. We’ll argue with you that Black Swan is a sport’s picture (substitute “opening night” for “big game” et voila), mouth along with Al Pacino delivering his pre match speech in Any Given Sunday, bore you to death by self debating whether the game at the end of MASH or Mean Machine is better and we even found some value in Wimbledon. If Denzel, SLJ or The Rock is announced as a coach we’ll be in the cinema before you. So, when we found out Drew Barrymore had directed a sport’s movie we said “Yes!! Wait…what?”, then we watched it anyway.
Whip It is a novel by Shauna Cross about a roller derby league in Austin, Cross has adapted her novel with Barrymore’s help into a sharp, witty script which Barrymore subsequently directed with a great cast. A cast presumably assembled on the cheap, lured by Barrymore’s long standing reputation as a performer and a producer in Hollywood.
Bliss (Ellen Page) is from small town Texas, bored at talent pageants or working in a bbq joint in a pig apron she becomes firstly enamoured with, then involved in, the rough and tumble world of roller derby. Roller Derby is roughly Rollerball (Not, not, not the Chris Klein version) with less motorbikes, explosions and death and much more short skirts, tight uniforms and Juliette Lewis sneering. Bliss adopts the name Babe Ruthless (assorted others: Eva Destruction, Smashlee Simpson, Iron Maven) and jumps two footed into a world of elbows, bruises, beer and losing your virginity to an obvious dick.
The easy comparison is Juno, which may, in part be responsible for Whip It getting made. We have Ellen Page with a stupid name (two, if you count Babe Ruthless), small town americana, forceful, witty parents, cool soundtrack and plenty of blissful youth/coming of age moments. Where the two differ is in attitudes and atmosphere. Whilst Juno felt achingly, painfully hip with a collection of quirky, almost emotionless characters, Whip It is fun straight out of the box, raucous, visceral and drunk. It could just come down to teen pregnancy versus rollerskating in short skirts but we know which will remain more watched over the years here.
Whip It is a near perfect, little gem of a picture that never tries to be something it’s not. We got the feeling it was as much fun to make as it is to watch. If Drew Barrymore can use $10,000,000 and her contacts book to make this then firstly, can we always make sure she has access to $10,000,000 and secondly, how come it takes fucking Bay $200,000,000 to make the joyless, racist Transformers 2? The only way to easily improve Whip It, in fact, would be to add the two ESPN commentators from Best In Show, but really, that’s true of any sport’s film.