Drew Barrymore shows a steady hand behind the camera with her directorial debut Whip It that contains an oft-told tale energetically rendered. Ellen Page is Bliss, a Texas teen who’s forced to participate in beauty contests at her mother’s (Marcia Gay Harden) insistence. The young woman is losing the will to live but is rejuvenated when she stumbles upon the Hurl Scouts, a woman’s roller derby team that takes no guff from anyone, though they’ve failed to win a single contest. No matter, Bliss is enchanted by their rough-and-tumble ways. Before you know it, she’s putting on heavy eyeliner, changed her name to Babe Ruthless and is ready to roll.
Barrymore finds the right degree of fun and poignancy in the tale and she also provides able support on screen as does Kristin Wiig, Juliette Lewis and Daniel Stern. However, the film rests on Page’s shoulders and she delivers a knockout performance. The actress displays a vulnerability and innocence here that’s wholly winning. We can’t help but cheer for her, despite knowing how her journey of self-actualization will end. We’ve been around this track before, but Whip It’s cast makes the trip worthwhile.
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