Review: Whip It

There is one place I never envisioned myself on a Saturday night—sitting behind the Pioneer Valley Roller Derby team at a preview screening of Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It. That is because one, I didn’t even know that there was a Pioneer Valley Derby League and two, everything Drew Barrymore touches typically makes me cringe. But Whip It is an entertaining and refreshing coming-of-age comedy that has made this notorious film snob less cynical.

Whip It stars Ellen Page (Juno) as Bliss Cavendar, a Texas teen who is constantly pressured by her controlling mother, Brooke (played by Marcia Gay Harden) to participate in beauty pageants. Bliss, however, wants nothing to do with pageant life. By chance, she and her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development) attend a roller derby match and Bliss finds herself determined to join the Hurl Scouts, an Austin roller derby team. Suddenly Bliss finds herself embedded in the roller derby world, falling for the guitarist in a local band and lying to her parents about her newfound passion.

The roller derby world comes alive through the movie’s exceptional supporting actors. SNL’s Kristin Wiig plays Maggie Mayhem, Bliss’s mentor while Eve and Barrymore appear as Rosa Sparks and Smashley Simpson, Bliss’s teammates. Juliette Lewis plays Iron Maven, the trashtalking captain of a rival team. Andrew Wilson and Jimmy Fallon round out the supporting cast as the Hurl Scouts coach and the league’s bizarre emcee respectively. These characters provide the film with hilarious literal and figurative comedic punches.

At its heart Whip It is a teenage coming-of-age story. Yet it feels refreshingly real. That is in large part due to the focus paid to the heartfelt mother-daughter relationship. What on paper reads like a cliche—a daughter rebels from her strict upbringing only to find herself and to understand her mother along the way—feels much more than that. In one final scene, Brooke reads a sentimental note from Bliss. Rather than cut the scene, the camera lingers on Brooke’s expression longer than you would expect as both she and the audience realize how these two characters have grown. The inclusion of this particular scene shows how Whip It benefits from having a female vision behind the film.

Female directors rarely direct feature-length commercial Hollywood films. As someone who has been in the film industry since the age of five, Drew Barrymore is a logical person to transition from acting to directing. Her presence in the male-dominated directing field will certainly enliven Hollywood’s representations of women. Whip It is a reflection of this. The film’s sharp and sassy humor, focus on individuality and independence, and overall empowering message make Whip It a must-see movie of the fall.

Published: Mount Holyoke News
October 1, 2009

Trailer Fix: Whip It!

Whip It is the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore. It stars Juno‘s Ellen Page as Bliss, a teen who is constantly pressured to participate in beauty pageants by her mother (played by Marcia Gay Harden) so she joins the roller derby instead. Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) co-stars as her best friend. Saturday Night Live‘s Kristen Wiig and R&B singer Eve star as her teammates.

Whip It seems like an enjoyable girl power kind of movie. It will be released in theaters October 9.

Preview: Grey Gardens

First there was the 1975 documentary, then the 2006 Broadway adaptation, and now there will be a HBO film adaptation of Grey Gardens.

Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore star as the Edies and Jeanne Tripplehorn stars as Jacqueline Kennedy in the HBO adapatation which premieres April 18. Here is the trailer:

Based on the trailer it seems that Drew Barrymore has captured Edie and finally delivers a worthwhile performance. That’s a huge compliment coming from me considering how much I despise Barrymore. Check out this clip from the documentary and judge for yourself.

Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Actors

Who are Hollywood’s most overpaid celebrities?

In a recent article, Forbes Magazine has designated these 10 Actors and Actresses to be the most overpaid. The rankings were compiled by looking at a star’s past three movies and then dividing their total earnings by the films’ overall income to determine the actor’s payback figure.

1. Nicole Kidman
2. Jennifer Garner
3. Tom Cruise
4. Jennifer Lopez
5. Cameron Diaz
6. Jim Carrey
7. Nicolas Cage
8. Drew Barrymore
9. Will Ferrell
10. Cate Blanchett

I guess in most of these cases “overpaid” is synonym for over-hyped and underwhelming.

Review: Music and Lyrics (2007)

Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics

The first months of the year are never known for delivering quality movies. Usually this isn’t noticeable because the award season has every one’s attention. Yet once the Oscars telecast ends, the lack of any decent movies becomes increasingly apparent. Music and Lyrics is one of the rare movies released during the January freeze that isn’t complete crap.

Music and Lyrics, released on Valentine’s Day, pairs up Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, two of the best romantic-comedy actors of the past 10 years.

Grant plays Alex Fletcher, a member of the former 80s pop band, POP!, who is receiving endless offers to appear on VH1 type shows (Battle of the Former 80s Stars, anyone?). He is then given an opportunity to write a song for the over-sexed newest pop sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett). The problem is, he’s not that good at writing songs.

Enter Barrymore’s character, Sophie Fisher, the woman hired to water his plants. She has a certain gift for writing catchy lyrics and soon a songwriting partnership is born. Of course, their budding romance will face pretty obvious challenges, but all in all, this is a cute and funny movie. Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston provide extra laughs in their supporting roles as Alex’s manager and Sophie’s sister respectively.

If you need to relax for a while, go see Music and Lyrics. It may not be the greatest romantic comedy ever made, but it is certainly not a movie you would consider a waste of money and time if you did venture out to see it.

Updated Octoebr 15, 2010