Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Whip It

Lowdown: Bliss from middle of nowhere America becomes Babe Ruthless at the rink.
Whip It is such an unassuming film I even rented it as a filler. Yet as is often the case, you get the best surprises from those you do not expect much of.
Whip It's plot follows a teen called Bliss from a middle of nowhere town in Texas. Her mother still treats her like a child, taking her to compete at pageants, but Bliss is over that; her focus is on getting out of town and into big time, getting out of the dreary diner she works at with her best friend where they serve food to their moron school friends who never tip. Bliss wants a future.
Salvation comes in the shape of a team skating competition. Bliss decides to try it out and quickly finds she has a knack for it. She joins a loser team of girls fighting some mighty opposition, but through will power and talent her team starts rising to the occasion just as Bliss starts finding her own identity. This new identity is called Babe Ruthless at the rink, and Bliss falls in love with Babe Ruthless and everything that comes with her. Yet questions remain: how long will Bliss be able to hide this sport from her parents? How long will she be able to take part in a sport where the minimum age is 22? And will skating get her anywhere in life - is there a future there?
When analysing the film, I managed to come up with the following reasons as to why Whip It managed to take me by surprise and provide me with a great movie experience:
  • Let’s start with the obvious: there’s a very good line-up of actors here, starting from an Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) that already proved she can carry a film on her shoulders as Bliss. Juliette Lewis is also notable as the head villain that, through being bad, helps our Bliss more than most others.
  • Then let us not ignore the obvious fact that Whip It is a film where the rounder characters are female and the chief protagonists are female. How often does that happen on the big screen? Not often enough!
  • Moving on through the list of factors in favor of Whip It, there’s the mater of the ending. How lovely it is to have an end that is not the usual improbably sweeter than sweet ending, but rather a realistic one. Billion times better!
  • Most of all, I liked Whip It because of its authenticity. It is not over the top; the teen in the film, her parents, her friends, the skating – none of them is larger than life, none are particularly better looking than in reality, none are without blemishes. To put it bluntly, Whip It’s story is a simple story that can take place anytime, anywhere. Most importantly, it can happen!
At the end I was quite surprised to see Drew Barrymore as the receiver of Whip It’s director’s credit. Good on ya, Drew; if this is what you can come up with as director, I want to see more!
Best scene: I really loved the adjoining scenes where Bliss leaves home after arguing with her parents on the merits of skating but then realizes she lost something in this rebellion of hers, eventually retuning home. I loved it because I am now able to see it from the point of view of a parent worried about their child who is still able to recall his own days of rebelling, and I loved it because I was able to see authenticity in everything that transpires between Bliss and her parents. What an excellent portrayal of real life teenage adventures!
Technical assessment: The sound on this DVD is mediocre but is more than compensated by a large collection of groovy songs that fit the occasion and keep the spirits high. However, the picture is outright horrible and qualifies for the worst I have seen on a mainstream release for a few years now. It’s highly likely this quality issue is limited to the Australian version of the DVD as the credits indicate the DVD was authored in Australia. A film like Whip It deserves better.
Overall: I loved Whip It through and though. Such authenticity coming out of Hollywood! Are you sure this is not an art house production? 4 out of 5 stars.

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