Whip It just may be the best teen flick the world has ever seen. It is definitely in my top ten films for 2009. I only wish it had been released while I was growing up in high school, yearning for some representation, looking far and wide for a voice that was more relatable than - for example - Jennifer Love Hewitt's character, Amanda, in Can't Hardly Wait. Barf.
Whip It was just released on DVD, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy because I (sadly) missed it on the big screen. So here's what's up - think irreverent comedy, inspirational story, and 1970s drive-in movie mixed into one cinematic experience. Ellen Page stars as Bliss Cavendar, a 17 year old girl trapped in the dull and boring suburban town of Bodean, Texas. She works at the local burger Oink Joint. Her mother is supportive and loving, and wants nothing more than for her daughter to win beauty pageants. Bliss has something else in mind that comes in the form of roller-skates, fishnet stockings, and blue hair. When she spots a flyer for a roller derby match in Austin, she hitches a ride with her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) and finds her true calling. She makes the team and becomes a new local star, as "Babe Ruthless."
Even the girl-loves-boy storyline is well done. Bliss and her musician boyfriend, Oliver are seemingly in love, and happy as hell. Oliver goes away on tour, and while in his absence, Bliss sees a photo, taken on the road, of Oliver with another girl. When she confronts him about this on his return, he insists nothing transpired - which allows Bliss to deliver the perfect line: “I don't wanna be this girl. The one who stands here and listens to what didn't happen”. She kisses him goodbye, and slaps him. Thank you, Barrymore.
You should also know that Whip It is really - really funny. It offers up genuine, feel good laughs, and genuine, feel good tears. The reconciliation between Bliss and her family in the film is really important and emotionally moving. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have very supportive and accepting parents. My mom dyed my hair blue for me. It was really lovely to watch Bliss' parents eventually come to and support her choices and who she is, inside and out. Not only should every teenage girl see this film, but her parents should as well.
It was also really lovely to watch Bliss not take any shit from Oliver. I think every girl goes through a musician phase, and sometimes they never receive any sound advice on what that means while growing up. Your parents don't want you to date him, and your friends just think it's cool. You aren't sure what to believe because you think you love the guy. Bliss goes through it, and refuses to settle for anything less than what makes her perfectly happy.
Perhaps my FAVOURITE aspect of the film was the female camaraderie without the bleached blonde hair, the pajama parties, designer clothing, and Britney Spears on the stereo while getting tipsy on wine coolers with jock boyfriends.
Now, I loved Clueless as much as any girl, but as I mentioned before, I really could have used a film like Whip It growing up. Even at 25, Whip It made me feel good about my life, my choices, and the countless gummy bears I choose to eat instead of a salad with a side of apple slices while watching the film.
Barrymore has a sharp eye for the rough-and-tumble grunginess of teenaged life and the roller derby, and a warmhearted appreciation of the girl power that fuels it. Everyone should see this film.
Let's do two videos to cap this review off. For the girls, Bikini Kill - Rebel Girl. And for the boys, Sea Wolf - You're A Wolf.