Friday, 9 April 2010
REVIEW: Whip It
Although this admission may somewhat lower my status as a man, and rightly so, I feel honesty is a crucial part of good criticism, so fuck it. In 2010, I have had yet to have a better time at a movie then Whip It. And yes it is about a female roller derby team and no this is not some misogynistic albeit hilarious joke. Its not the best movie, by a long, long way, but like its director Drew Barrymore, there simply is no need for substance when the surface is this charming and possessing such a glorious sense of fun. Sure its cliched, and rolls along like many a sports movie before it, and even features an entirely unironic training montage, but in her directorial debut, Barrymore infuses this world with such an a gleefully smartass indie earnestness, and that is somehow not irritating, that it won me over and then some.
But before the hurdle of clarification comes the explanation of my somewhat dramatic opening statement, because this year contained Kick-Ass, a film that many deem a masterpiece of entertainment value. But I don't know. It may be my own personal gripe, but films that seep irony quite like that keep itself and the viewer at arms length, and while it may be a worthier and better film then Whip it, as pretty much every film coming out of this side of the milky way would be, you can't quite immerse yourself and fall in like in quite the same way. The film plays like a sports movie Ghost World, keeping the same extreme indie mentality but exchanges much of the angst if not all of it for an infectious sense of fun and the joy of seeing people high on life without contrivance. If I were to ever fall entirely in love with a tone of movie, it would be this.
Ellen Page, in a role that proves she can be just as likable free of the hamburger phone, is obviously at ease with sarcastic asides and emotional hardassery, proves she can play naive and vulnerable just as well. I fact most of the dialogue of the quipping kind falls to best friend Alia Shawkat, Aka Maebe Funke from Arrested Development, and she is just as good. Its their chemistry together that draws the Ghost World comparison, and its nice to see genuine chemistry on screen between movie best friends, when its so often absent. Also great is Andrew Wilson as Page's roller Derby coach Razor, exhibiting much southern drollery and being consistently hilarious. Juliette Lewis makes for a workable villain, channeling her punk persona into PG-13 villain territory. Kristin Wiig and Marcia Gay Harden also do great, selfless supporting work. Even Jimmy Fallon, who was sent from hell to frustrate and annoy us all into blowing our brains out is not just tolerable but fairly funny.
But alas Journalistic integrity must intervene, and I must admit that there are things wrong. A few too many life lessons, forced on dramatic spats, a tacked on boyfriend subplot, and perhaps the occasional moment of immaturity drag it down, but hell. If you view cinema as a medium to entertain then Whip It is more then a sum of its parts. I wish like hell I could let myself give it an 8/10 but I can't quite do it. What a pussy.