Whip It! by Director Drew Barrymore Movie Review: Roller Derby with Ellen Page Pumps Girl Power Into Sports Genre

Move aside boys — it's time for the girls to get in on the action, on both sides of the camera.

It's no big secret that American cinema is still largely a man's world, from top to bottom and everywhere in between. Every once and a while, we get something like Frozen River — a film about what it means to be a woman, written and directed by Courtney Hunt (a woman) — and of course, small awards buzz aside, the film gets relegated to the fringe.

The point here is not that we should expect women to be making films solely about women — Kathryn Bigelow has exhibited more insight into the male psyche than most gents. But when sexuality and promiscuity are too often treated as synonymous with femininity, someone has to step in, and it might as well be someone who knows a thing or two about being a woman.

And, for that matter, filmmaking. Whether you believed she had it in her or not, Drew Barrymore is exactly that filmmaker.

Whip It! Skates Around The Sports Genre Conventions Admirably

Whip It! — Barrymore's directorial debut — isn't a sensationally great film, and from beginning to end, it's a downright predictable one. Every move is telegraphed by a thousand coming-of-age and sports movies before it. However, it has the wonderful sweat and stench of truth, as in something that came from experience rather than blind inference.

Scripted by Shauna Cross from her novel of the same name, Whip It! is unapologetic in its reliance on genre formula and convention, which is at least one reason why it gets away with playing connect the dots with the plot lines. Predestination aside, there's a lot of personality coming through from both sides of the camera.

Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) longs (as every small-town, high-school protagonist does) to escape. The prison in question is Bodeen, Texas, or more figuratively, her nutty mother's (Marcia Gay Harden) insistence on including her in the local pageantry circuit. Down the highway, the liberal offerings of Austin tempt her toward, of all things, roller derbies.

Ellen Page Leads Off Phenomenally Assembled Cast in Whip It!

Page, as she has proven before, is as talented as any young actress around, and it's a good thing she brought her A-game. Aside from the demanding physicality for the role, Page has competition coming at her from all angles. …