22 February 2011

Movies: Whip It

A Bodeen, TX teenager decides she doesn't want to be the serial beauty pageant contestant her mother wants, she wants to be a member of an Austin, TX roller derby team.
Stars: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Daniel Stern, and a few other recognizable faces.
And it is Drew Barrymore's directorial debut.

Roller Derby! Can't miss with that, right? Well ... It turns out that it's a chick flick.

It's a coming-of-age story with a little bit of teenage romance/"first time"/heartbreak/life lessons learned. It's a story of family, mother-daughter relationships, friendships. And it tacks on a few bits of roller derby action, but mostly it's the chick flick stuff.

I'm terrible when it comes to figuring out if a chick flick is a good flick or not. The cast did fine. The few bits of roller derby were okay, kinda tame though. Locations were okay, although set in Bodeen and Austin, TX, it was actually filmed in Detroit. A lot of the roller derby cast were actual derby skaters, which lends a little authenticity. The derby queen names were kinda funny.

Ellen Page, a 22yr old actress at the time, plays a 17yr old pretending to be 22yrs old to be in the roller derby. And she still looks 15. Almost as big a gap as 23yr old Alison Lohman portraying an 18yr old pretending to be 14yrs old in Matchstick Men (which is a pretty good movie that isn't a chick flick that I highly recommend seeing even though Nick Cage is in it. He does pretty good actually). Ellen Page would get crushed by real roller derby skaters, sortof the way a balsa wood fence would stop a car.  But, from what I've heard, her size has been defended by actual derby skaters as authentic. So what do I know?

I noticed Zoe Bell in the cast, the stuntwoman still trying to be an actress too (Death Proof, Lost are a couple other places Zoe has popped up as an actress). A couple notable stuntworks you've probably seen her do: stunt double for The Bride in Kill Bill, stunt double for Xena warrior princess.

So I guess if you're a chick flick fan, have at it. If you're a roller derby fan because it's chicks on rollerskates with violence, you'll probably think you're watching Riding in Cars with Boys only on rollerskates - without the teenage pregnancy 'cause Ellen Page covered that in Juno. 

That said - I didn't dislike the film. It just didn't meet the unfounded and uninformed expectations I'd formed before I saw the film. That's failure on my part. 

Heck - wanna see a good Ellen Page movie that isn't X-Men 3 or Inception? Check out "Hard Candy" or "An American Crime". Speaking of "An American Crime" - I preferred 2007's "The Girl Next Door" (not the lame 2004 one). It is a retelling of the same story but way more gut wrenching and slightly better as a film - An American Crime pulled some punches. Then again, Hard Candy and An American Crime (and The Girl Next Door) are not family friendly, will probably give some folks nightmares, and even caused a little turning of my usually cast-iron stomach.

Oh - and watch Matchstick Men. It's worth it.

(original post 8 Aug 2010)

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