Monday, September 28, 2009

Whip It (Review)

     I got to see "Whip It" nearly a week early as it opened this Saturday in limited theaters for a sneak preview.  (I got a free t-shirt too!)  The drive was definitely worth it.  

     "Whip It" mixes just the right amount of humor, emotion, and self discovery into a uniquely Texas coming of age tale.  Ellen Page, who has an incredible amount of talent for one so young, brings her usual stellar performance as Bliss Cavendar, an 17 year old girl from a small (one stop light kind of small) Texas town who is being forced by her, well meaning, mother, played by Marcia Gay Harden, who does a prefect performance of an obsessive, small town, Texas mother, to participate in beauty pageant after beauty pageant, in an attempt to give her daughter the advantages she never had growing up.  Younger sister, Shania, played by relative newcomer Eulala Scheel, seems to love the pageant life.  Not so for Bliss.  She hates it and longs for something outside of small town life.  Her chance comes during a shopping trip to Austin where she picks up a flyer for TXRD, Texas Roller Derby.  From there, a shy, reserved young girl lies to her parents about where she is going at night, lies about her age to get into the league, and discovers something she truly loves, or, at least, loves more than working as a waitress at a small town BBQ joint.  Daniel Stern plays the father.  He's also very typical small town Texas.  He is a bit overwhelmed by a family of beauty pageant girls.  He has to sneak out to his van to watch football and looks enviously at the high school football signs other fathers put in their yards for their sons.  Additional star power is brought by Jimmy Fallon, who actually does a good job as TXRD announcer 'Hot Tub' Johnny Rocket, Kristen Wiig, also brings a great performance as Maggie Mayhem, player for the fictional TXRD team, the Hurl Scouts, Juliette Lewis, who does an incredible job as chief rival Iron Maven, player for the number one TXRD team, the Holy Rollers, Andrew Wilson, who is truly the most under rated Wilson brother, playing the beach bum-esque Hurl Scouts coach to perfection, (his performance is far more believable and authentic than anything brother Owen could ever pull off) and, of course, let us not forget, first time director, Drew Barrymore, who not only shines in her directorial debut, but also does a great job as Hurl Scouts player Smashley Simpson. 

     (Ok, time out for a second.  If case some of that confused you, let me give you a (very) quick explanation of Roller Derby culture.  Roller Derby is a contact sport, played by women on skates, who try to pass each other on a track for points.  The players and teams usually have, let's say, colorful names.  Actual TXRD team names include the Holy Rollers, the Hellcats, and the Putas del Fuego.  Anyway, you really don't need to know anything about Roller Derby before seeing this movie.  It'll be very obvious or they'll fill you in along the way.  Anyway, back to the movie.) 

     "Whip It" is simultaneously a inspirational tale of a young girl finding her own path in life, a underdog sports flick about a team who started at last and fought hard to be on top, and an incredibly funny, true to life comedy, full of characters we see every day (especially if you live in or near Central Texas) and can actually relate to.

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