[Ed. note: in a very special edition of the Videogum Movie Club, our chief America’s Next Top Model correspondent, Gabe Liedman, leads the Koffee Klatsch.]
When I first heard that Drew Barrymore was set to direct her first feature film, I immediately whipped out my No Doy Diary, scribbled five stars in puffy paint, and burnt the house down. Obviously: this was going to be a movie that I would enjoy. Perhaps it DEFINITELY goes without saying that I am not a film critic. I’ve never “seen” most “classics.” Netflix stopped recommending movies to me, and sent me a coupon for a brain transplant instead.
I’m a big, big fan of Drew Barrymore’s. I know that some people couldn’t give two shits about her, and that makes sense. But think about this: her public identity is the real life Benjamin Button (tweaked out disco MILF at 10, quirky tween goof at 34…Osh Kosh Bgosh runway model at 70?).
I can’t say exactly when this love started. I feel as though Drew and I have been sisters for my whole life (sorry my real sister, Amy). A few years back, when I was still a shit-head and worked retail, I had the pleasure of waiting on Ms. Barrymore. While she shopped, I fished around in my tiny jeans to see if I could find the balls to express my <3 to her, but they were nowhere to be found. She ended up buying a fierce Margiela coat, and while I was wrapping it up for her, I said "this is so soft," to which she responded "I know, I'm gonna sleep in it. JUSTKIDDINGBYEEEEE." If I was straight, I would enter a polygamist union with Drew Barrymore, Sarah Paulson, and Amanda Seyfried. Every morning, I would help them curl tiny prom tendrils into their front hairs, and then we would practice lisping confidently and crying on command. Gretchen Mol would do our taxes, and when we needed advice about stuff, we'd call Holly Hunter. So, I saw Whip It this weekend, by myself, in a mostly-empty theater, except for about 8 bears and a J.V. softball team. It was definitely a movie for people whose shirts don’t fit so great in the chest. I totes enjoyed it.
Whip It is the kind of cougar/cub lesbian upskirt porno rom-com that I can get behind. Starring Ellen Page as a girl who would DEFINITELY get an abortion if some dork sperm’d her, the movie is a fun, formulaic, girl-bruise fest that’s a little bit A League of Their Own and a lot a bit Dazed and Confused. It’s full of hazing, Manic Panic, and twee indie music (Page’s character Bliss loses her v-card underwater while a Jens Lekman song plays)–needless to say, there wasn’t a dry seat in the house.
Ellen Page is actually good in Whip It (after Juno, I wanted to put her in drama-camp-jail), and her chemistry with on-screen bestie Pash (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) is authentic and nice. Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Page’s mother, is as good as always, and happens to be the only person in the entire movie who even tries to do a Texas accent. Her character is a USPS mail lady, who smokes, and used to be a beauty queen (I guess Allison Janney was busy?); but M. Gay H. performed it like it wasn’t a big dumb cliché, and in the end, it didn’t seem like one.
M. Gay H.’s character wants her daughter to be a beauty queen like her, but Ellen Page wants more excitement in her life. While shopping for vintage combat boots in Austin, she catches her first glimpse of some tattooed Suicide Girl roller derby chicks, and falls in love with their inky slut bodies. She ends up secretly trying out for a derby team, and getting taken under the collective she-wing of The Hurl Scouts–the worst team in the league, with the best attitude about being horrible.
The Hurl Scouts are comprised of Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig, who is the opposite of whacky in this, and actually teaches Ellen Page how to be more respectful to her mother), Rosa Sparks (the fierce rapper Eve, who has like 8 lines, but is totally good at them), Smashley Simpson (film auteur Drew Barrymore as a loveable dumb-dumb), and Bloody Holly (stuntwoman-cum “actress” Zoe Bell). They all love to roller-skate around and beat the shit out of other girls; and even though Kristen Wiig has a kid, they are definitely all gay, because none of them even looks twice at their coach, Razor–an incredibly retro-hot, fuck-machine-looking dude who loves them for who they are (played by Andrew Wilson, who’s had tiny anonymous parts in thousands of movies over the last 10 years).
Ellen Page turns out to be amazing at roller derby-ing, because she is small and fast and her you-know-what is nice and tight and fresh. With her on their team, the Hurl Scouts start doing well for the first time ever, and that makes Juliette Lewis VERY
muscular upset. See, she’s used to being the best–her character is a dominant top with a taste for jailbait, and that’s where all the hazing comes in. It climaxes in a very sexy food fight, natch.
The plot plays out like shitty Xerox of The Bad News Bears remake’s screenplay, with a love story between Ellen Page and twink-rocker Landon Pigg thrown in for the fuck of it. Landon has an amazing last name in real life, and got cast in the role of Oliver when Drew Barrymore put her Boink-O-Dex on shuffle.
Everything that’s supposed to happen does–if you’ve seen the poster for this movie, then you already know it by heart. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing, if you enjoy loveable bullshit, gay-ass ’90s fashion, and music that sounds like tiny kisses; or, if you wish Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller movies were a little less intense, then you’ll also enjoy Whip It.
The direction, the look, the acting–it’s all very relaxed and kind of subtle, considering what the movie’s about. It’s like a soft-boiled egg–gloopy, comforting, familiar, yet easily re-branded as gourmet. Drew Barrymore’s touch is light, and you can tell that she created a very chill on-set vibe, which comes across in the effortlessness of it all. And, don’t get me wrong–it wasn’t “seemingly effortless”–it was straight up effortlessness, where no one was trying very hard, and everything kind of figured itself out.
Of course, roller derby is ripe for action, and there was some, but not a ton of in Whip It. If Drew and I were cuddled up around her Charlie’s-Angels-silhouette-shaped-bong talking shop, I’d probably tell her to throw a couple more tit-slamming, spine-crushing collisions and high-speed clavicle-clawing catfights in there for good measure. But, as is, Whip It has as much as it needed to make its point. The point, of course, being that lesbians deserve respect because some of them are very pretty (in that “interesting” kind of way). Also: be nice to your mom, she’s so tired from delivering everyone’s mail!!!!!!!!!
What else? Oh, yeah, Daniel Stern isn’t dead, but he IS pretty fat, and Jimmy Fallon is in it too!
But, mostly, HI DREW BARRYMORE!!! U made a movie, din’choo, gurw.