Director: Drew Barrymore : April 9th Review by Newell Hampson-Jones With Whip It, I’ve decided to experiment with my review technique and tailor it for the twitter-generation with this minute-by-minute review. The intention is offer my preconceptions of the film and then write down the experience of watching to see if these preconceptions are upheld, broken down or if I just don’t care and I’ve started surfing the internet for porn. Whether I succeed with this (especially with a broken index finger sustained, as usual, through a bit of a drinking session last night) we won’t know until the end. Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut (cue rolling of the eyes) centres on a small-town pageant queen who is at a social crossroads, moving away from the shallow contests and bitchy competition and towards a more individual direction, namely that of roller derby. It stars Ellen Page as (surprise) our indie-loving heroine, with some support from Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Eve and Alia Shawkat among others. My preconceptions are that I love Ellen Page and think she is hugely talented but frustratingly typecast after Juno. Are she and Michel Cera now our go-to indie outsiders, with Alia Shawkat the cynical friend? This is why I was happy to see the film; however there is a lot that makes me think I’ll hate this. The tag line of “Be your own hero” conjures up the impression this will be some alt-rock-by-numbers affair with a misguided pseudo-feminist slant which ends up actually championing a number of status quo ideals. The fact Drew Barrymore is directing is one warning sign. I have no qualms with her going behind the camera, I’d be fine with it, but I would like to see what she’d do with a film with a bit more gravitas to it, rather than what I feel will be a bit of a lame duck. The fact Juliette Lewis is also involved is almost enough to make me not bother-I cannot stand Lewis, although I will admit her output in the 90s was excellent, with True Romance and Natural Born Killers two examples of her ability. But I’m going to watch this. I’ll sit through it, for Ellen. Now the preconceptions are out of the way and I’ve had an egg sandwich and a Kit Kat Chunky, I think it’s time to press forward with this (probably ill-conceived) experiment. 14:40 – The film starts… 14:41 – A Kings of Leon song in the opening credits – and not a very good Kings of Leon song at that – pretty much adds to the fear my preconceptions may be right. 14:42 – First laugh. Ellen Page choking Alia Shawkat will do that. Although the supposedly funny moment after falls a little flat for me. Too clichéd. 14:45 – The pageant scene was very well done. The girl playing Ellen Page’s sister is actually quite funny, as are the parents. Things are looking up. 14:47 – Alia Shawkat needs to be in more things. She’s great. Oh, look here are the popular kids, surprise surprise they’re dumb and all twats. Great line-which I think has been in the trailer/clips released, “Are you alternative now?” “Alternative to what?” I think that’s a nice touch although the whole interaction between Page’s character (Bliss) and her ex friend is a bit contrived. 14:49 – All credit to Drew Barrymore, she’s captured the dynamics of the small Southern town by a bigger city really well. 14:50 – OK this bit, I can imagine a lot of people having trouble with. The cynical amongst us, including me, may roll our eyes at the roller derby girls rolling in to the shop, but on reflection that is the sort of thing you see in US malls to advertise an event so maybe being cynical is a bit unfair. 14:52 – Ha! The lying to the parents scene is classic. And that is purely because of Ellen Page & Alia Shawkat. 14:53 – Oh dear. Ellen Page squealing and doing (bad) air guitar to the Ramones. Now that, I think, is fair game for some cynical eye-rolling. Oh God, now there’s a cool indie boy in a leather jacket who’s all silent but smiles at her. Fucking hell it’s wavering a bit. 14:55 – Jimmy Fallon’s come on; he’s not doing a bad job. Juliette Lewis though? Fucking hell. Not miss-cast so much as just plain annoying and piss-poor. 14:56 – “Be your own hero” I shuddered. Really. Awful line. And here we have the setup for the conflict point later. That was awfully obvious. Drew Barrymore appears to be taking a comedy supporting role. Oh Christ, longing look between her and cute guy. Good line with “I can grow the balls”. This really is quite hit & miss but not as bad as I expected. 15:00 – Oh God, this scene is so poor. Passing random scenes of small town life and Ellen Page reacting. There are some fantastic lines, here. Really funny. 15:01 – the rule explanation is really well handled, Juliette Lewis is bloody awful though. Truly, truly hideous performance. 15:03 Oh Christ, Ellen Page skating with a huge smile on her face is adorable! If only Juliette Lewis didn’t ruin this scene by…I dunno…existing in it. Jesus, she’s putting a bloody horrible performance. 15:06 – Ooh a montage! (Reminds me of the South Park scene) There is so much cliché in this film, it drowns in it sometimes, but there are some great bits too. Oh crap. Am I enjoying this?! 15:09 – Drew Barrymore is quite funny. Kristen Wiig is legendary. The crabs monologue is hilarious! 15:12 – Jimmy Fallon is doing a good job, too. Oh crap. That guy from earlier is back. Cue longing looks, I’m guessing. 15:15 – the roller derby scenes are good; Barrymore’s clearly put a lot of work in that-dammit! Why ruin it with a shot of the boy? I’m liking the coach, he’s pretty funny. 15:18 – Surprise, surprise. The boy is in a band. The band is playing at the after-show party and…lo and behold…he’s the lead singer. We really do not need this sub-plot at all, it devalues the whole film. 15:19 – The boy’s name is Oliver. The guy playing him is wooden, smug & stilted. The scene between him and Ellen Page is awkward. Oh and here’s Juliette Lewis to ruin this scene even more. 15:20 – The vomiting scene following is possibly one of the funniest things I’ve seen! Perfect! Alia Shawkat is a mini-legend. 15:25 – I hate this guy even more. I could never get away with saying “Yeah, I’m stalking you” as a line to get with Ellen Page. 15:28 – Who told Eve she can act? Shoot them for me, please. 15:30 - HAR MAR SUPERSTAR! Awesome but a little unnecessary. Another good Roller Derby scene. Mainly due to the lack of Juliette Lewis. 15:32 – Jimmy Fallon makes an excellent pervert. 15:34 – Drew Barrymore’s romantic scene checklist: Obscure indie tune? Check. Awkward glances? Check. Vintage movie? Check. Band playing? Check. This really is the weak thread of the film. Too much time devoted to it and it feels like there’s been better areas sacrificed. 15:36 – Nice scene with the dad. To be honest a lot of the scenes with the parents are excellent. Especially with the mother where you see flickers of a deeper character. 15:40 – FOOD FIIIIIIIIIIIGHT! Is it wrong that Ellen Page being violent is quite sexy? I can’t even be bothered criticising Juliette Lewis anymore. 15:43 – Oh the secret has been revealed. And I must admit it was done quite well. 15:44 – The lovers are breaking in to a swimming pool. How original. 15:45 – Whilst I’m all for pretty women stripping, is this underwater PG-13 sex scene really necessary? 15:46 – The way music has been mixed in to this film has been quite clumsy at times. Always like hearing Radiohead, but that was just clunky. Oh, wait, hold on. Ellen Page took her top off. 15:47 – Uh huh, the other secret has been revealed. That was a pretty good face-off. 15:51 – Wow, it’s pretty much all falling apart for Ellen Page right now. Juliette Lewis is back, trying to be evil and she’s just being…well…annoying and wooden. 15:55 – Alia Shawkat just made the Birdman’s night. 15:57 – Damn, that was a really good scene with Kristen Wiig and Ellen Page. It was….downright sensible! And things just got worse for Ellen Page but, I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, but the way it was done has made the whole romance storyline relevant and worthwhile. Oh crappity crap, crap. I’m actually quite enjoying this! I’d even go as far as to say I really like it! 16:02 – Did Drew Barrymore write this? Some of the scenes are absolutely fantastic. 16:06 – Emo makeover! 16:07 – A nice tee-up to the ending. Jimmy Fallon is really very good; Juliette Lewis is the worst thing about this film. Replace her and a lot of the other issues could be easily ignored. 16:17 – I’m so absorbed in the finale that I forgot to write anything. There was a bit of a rubbish cheesy bit, but it’s got that charm that John Hughes movies have where you forgive it. And it doesn’t descend to absolute saccharine bullshit. 16:20 – Someone needs to teach Juliette Lewis what subtlety is. She’s too busy being Juliette Lewis and not enough time being her character. 16:28 – Credits (which are actually a bit funny) Afterthoughts – Wow, I got way too sucked in to this. So, if you keep in mind my preconceptions, I’ll admit, I was wrong. This is in no way a perfect film at all, but all credit to Drew Barrymore (and Shauna Cross for writing), she’s done a great job. There are a few disjointed bits and issues-writing wise, there were some stock clichés which I think dragged the film back a bit. Directorially, the music cues were a bit clunky and took you out of the scene as was the cameo from Har Mar Superstar which made me wonder if his casting was included only to get the hipster kids a little excited (which I did fall for, admittedly). These faults are minor though and shouldn’t greatly impair your enjoyment of the film. Performance wise, there is so much right here-some are surprisingly likeable as well (Jimmy Fallon an example) and Marcia Gay Harden deserves particular credit for taking a character which on paper would probably look quite flat, standard and 2 dimensional and giving her a depth that I’m unsure a lot of actresses would have had the intelligence to do. Only 2 people really let the film down. Eve just cannot act. I’m sorry, but she hasn’t got the ability too. The other person who I thought was a huge let down, I think you can guess. Juliette Lewis who has had some roles where she could act has now just become a joke. All the way through she ruined every scene she was in with a wooden, egocentric performance which served only to remind me that she has that god-awful band. She wasn’t Iron Maven; she was Juliette out of Juliette and the Licks. I understand why they cast her, on paper she looks the perfect person to play this role, but in reality she’s got to make a decision; is she an actress first, frontman second or vice versa? I don’t think she has the ability to separate the two roles as this performance clearly showed. I’d suggest sticking to the singing, but truth be told she’s pretty bloody awful at that as well. Rant aside, though, this was a great film. It had the charm reminiscent of a John Hughes movie and next time I see “directed by Drew Barrymore” on a film poster I may go see it just to see how she’s improved. There is definitely some talent there, but it is a bit raw. I think we’ll see her improve in skill as she releases more films which will eventually make following the directorial career that I hope this is the springboard for all the more rewarding. What I enjoyed most was how succinctly she managed to capture the identity crisis of being torn between small-town America and the big city. There may be a translation issue, which I think I touched on earlier where a British audience may be more cynical to elements of this film, feeling they are clichéd and unrealistic without realising that they are actually quite true to life in that environment. It’s not a major issue, though. It’s a great film which entertains even the most condescending of viewers. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Photobucket