Whip It is a funny and entertaining movie – a promising start to Drew Barrymore’s directing career. “Be Your Own Hero”, the publicity for the picture asserts; a message the director certainly seems to have taken to heart.
Whip It focuses on misfit teen Bliss and her attempt to escape small-town drudgery by joining a roller derby league. In the process, as well as finding something she excels at, Bliss formulates a new life for herself. Her new life, friends and boyfriend, however, come at the expense of some of the more positive elements of her previous conservative upbringing…
In some ways the film is what one would expect from Barrymore; an independently produced picture, with a hip soundtrack and quirky but apt casting. Ellen Page is convincing as young Bliss, perfecting the rebelling teen attitude. Whilst there are great performances from all involved, it is Juliette Lewis who steals the show as ultra-competitive rival Iron Maven.
There is no doubt that Whip It is a female-centric film. Rather than taking a preachy tone pushing a feminist agenda, Barrymore keeps in light, advocating instead the positives of female friendship and having confidence in oneself. It is heartening to see that along with the positive female portrayals, the men are also depicted in optimistic light. Too often strong female characters are balanced with negative male portrayals, but thankfully Barrymore eschews this archetype.
Barrymore’s directorial debut accomplishes the rare feat of being both lighthearted and inspirational. It is an enjoyable film to watch, but there is also a real optimism to the messages it sends. Along with the strong female depictions, Whip It reinforces the importance of finding your own identity and having the confidence to pursue your goals. With this in mind, it is Drew herself who is also rousing, going from child star to wild child, from much-loved actress to producer and now director. Thus, her transcendence is encompassing enough to be inspirational to males as well as females.