I saw Whip It! last night. I loved it so hard. Let me count the ways.
1. The Teen Angst.
Yes, the trailer seemed awfully familiar, but there's a reason coming-of-age stories work: The adventure of self-discovery is a powerful one. From Hamlet to Heathers, the young adult years are transformative. Bliss (played by Ellen Page) is a completely different person in the beginning of the film than she is in the end, and that kind of intense character arc is deliciously watchable. The journey is the destination, as they say.
2. The Oh-So-Real Relationships
Bliss and BFF Pash (played by Alia Shawkat) have the kind of intense teenage friendship I recall so well: Full of humor, admiration and teasing. There's one scene between them that takes the I'll-hold-your-hair-while-you-puke cliché to a whole new level.
Then there's Bliss' relationship with her mother, which also rang true and had emotional depth while showcasing how women of different generations can hold different ideals (derby vs. pageants) — while still having the same traits (stubborness; inner strength).
3. The Acting
Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat and the formidable Marcia Gay Harden deliver pitch-perfect performances. Period.
4. It's Not About Brides, Boys Or Babies.
So many films marketed toward women these days rely on the chicks having a crisis over one of the three Bs; this movie follows the Bechdel Rule. Twenty-three years ago, cartoonist Alison Bechdel promoted an idea: That she'd only watch movies which met a certain criteria. As she told NPR last year: "One, it had to have at least two women in it. Two, they had to speak to each other about, three, something besides a man." At the time, the joke was: There'd be nothing to watch. But from Tina Fey's Baby Mama to chick flicks like Bride Wars and He's Just Not That Into You, finding films which follow the rule continues to be a challenge. In Whip It, Bliss interacts with her best friend, her mom, her new teammates and her (female) nemeses — and the guy she has a crush on is merely a sub-plot. I love a quality rom-com, but women do have other stories besides "meeting cute" and falling in love.
5. Roller Derby. Obvs. And The Ladies Of Roller Derby
I adored watching kick-ass, tattooed women with confidence and decidedly not frail, non-Hollywood bodies. But as Kristen Wiig tells the LA Times: "I think it was important for Drew to kind of let everyone know that so many different types of women do derby… Not just the big tough girls with the tattoos and stuff — there's a lot of that — but we met women there who are teachers and nurses and mothers and wives."
6. A Damn Good Story
Thank you, Shauna Cross.
7. Walking Out Of The Theater With A Huge Smile On My Face
Can't beat it.
I'm going to see it again, and take my mom.
'SNL' Actress Trained To Skate For Roller Derby Movie 'Whip It.' [LA Times]
Earlier: Analyzing Whip It's Comfortingly Familiar Teen Angst
Must Female Movie & TV Characters Always Have Men On The Mind?
Related: The 'Bechdel Rule,' Defining Pop-Culture Character [NPR]