Starring; Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Kristen Wiig
Director: Drew Barrymore
Running Time: 111 mins
Whip It is an American film about an indie teenage girl who finds solace in a roller derby team in Austin to help her get away from a frustrating life at home.
As hard as it tries to be a seminal indie movie, I just couldn’t find any reason to really like Whip It. It does have a very good cast, but with a story that feels very bland, and a far more downbeat tone than necessary, this was unfortunately a much duller watch than I looked forward to.
On the positive side, some of the acting here is good. Ellen Page and Alia Shawkat are the stars of the show, representing the only two elements of the entire movie that I felt like I cared about, and their strong chemistry did lighten the mood from time to time when the film was turning into a real slog. The rest of the cast is filled with some strong performers, including Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore and others, but they’re not quite as engaging as the two young leads.
The other thing that I did like about Whip It was the roller derby sequences. Due to the poor screenplay (which I’ll get onto in a second), I felt like there wasn’t much energy to this film. That’s why the scenes where we actually get to see the girls fighting it out in the roller derbies stand out so much: because they’re fun.
I still don’t really understand the rules of roller derbies, but despite that, Drew Barrymore did an excellent job at bringing some life to the film through the sports sequences, and it was the combination of that and the two lead performances that meant that Whip It wasn’t such a horrible drag at every moment.
Despite that, the screenplay for this film was really poor. Trying to play off other teenage indie movies, Whip It never feels as rebellious or eye-opening as it wants to be. Rather than being able to support this teenage girl as she breaks out from a ridiculous family tradition to do something she’s actually good at, the film feeds you with dull, downbeat dialogue from start to finish, and, apart from the roller derby sequences, never really feels like it’s emphasising the positives of this girl’s rebellion.
Overall, whilst it has some strong performances and entertaining sports sequences, Whip It is simply far too downbeat and bland to be an engaging or emotionally empowering indie drama. It very rarely feels fun, and it almost never shows the deep emotional effects of this girl’s rebellion on herself and those around her, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.5.