Ellen Page looks like a character from a Dr Seuss book. One of the Whos. It’s her nose, I think. And the fact that she will be playing teenagers until she’s in her 30s, at which point I’ve no idea what will happen. P’raps she’ll instantly become a walking raisin. P’raps she’s going to look young forever. What it does mean is that she’ll be playing Juno-like roles for the next decade at least. If I have my way.
If I was being mean, I might say that Whip It is basically Dodgeball for a female audience. A rag-tag group of almost-losers take on other teams in a non-sport (this time Roller Derby-ing) and ultimately make their way towards a climactic title bout. Thankfully the comparison doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, although there are some weird echoes of stereotypical underdog films which jar with this largely realistic teen drama. For example, Juliette Lewis plays an antagonistic villain who is incongruously nasty. It’s like having Dick Dastardly pop up in a Mike Leigh movie, as Lewis is a caricature, not a deep character.
Whip It is generally good, solid fun. It is not a laugh a minute, and its mother-daughter sub-plot is probably more affecting if you have lived with a controlling parent, but the script is hung around a well-structured plot that drives forward predictably. And predictability is comforting.
The relationship between Page’s Bliss and her lead singer boyfriend is nicely handled, showing that virginity can be lost without sacrificing dignity or innocence. And that romances can end badly in a teen movie without then needing a resurrection before the credits roll. There are hints of girl power and feminism, but these are not shoved down the audience’s throat or completely hidden. Balance is basically the key word here.
The biggest flaw of Whip It is its sound track. Songs are inserted far too frequently, as if an eager indie-loving friend is trying to make you listen to a playlist they have created, and it serves to distract you. Or rather me. It’s not a huge deal, but Juno and its director Jason Reitman are to blame for this ongoing trend, which movies like 500 Days of Summer have continued. It probably dates back further than that, actually, but it has seeped into advertising now, which means commercial breaks are even more breathtakingly painful than ever before. Wait, what was I talking about?
Go and see Whip It for a couple of hours of entertainment. It’s an above average teen movie. And not a whole lot more.
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