Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whip It

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: Whip It, directed by Drew Barrymore

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

Despite their differences in age, nationality and lineage, Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page feel cut from similar cloth. Independent of mind and spirit, they embody a new kind of female cinema icon. They also both seem drawn to the funkier side of popular culture. Who but Barrymore, in her role as producer, could have taken the campy television show Charlie's Angels and turned it into a contemporary feminist blockbuster franchise?

A perfect match for these two engaging personalities, Whip It is Barrymore's debut as a director and Page's first big starring role since Juno. The setting is the world of roller derby, that discredited seventies sexploitation sport now transformed into a grassroots phenomenon sweeping a certain sector of America's female population. Often working class and with a fondness for tough-girl noms de sport (“Sandra Day O'Clobber” is a personal favourite), these devil-may-care women have built an increasingly successful sports movement.

Bliss Cavendar (Page) is your typical small-town Texan teenager. Comically misunderstood by her parents, the aspiring tomboy is made to compete in beauty pageants by her faded debutante mom (Marcia Gay Harden).

While visiting nearby Austin, Bliss spies a couple of wild-looking women on roller skates delivering flyers for a local roller-derby night. With her best friend, the saucy-but-kinda-nerdy Pash (Alia Shawcat), Bliss crashes a world far from the pageant crowd, a rocking underground punk scene infused with beer, hellcats, fishnets, short skirts and bodychecking.

Before long, she's leading an exhilarating but risky double life. First-time director Barrymore is clearly in her groove working with the perfectly cast derby girls (including Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven, Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem, Eve as Rosa Sparks, and Zoe Bell as Bloody Holly), all of whom execute their own stunts. Barrymore herself is a knockout (pun!), playing an accident-prone and totally hilarious Smashle Simpson.

The movie's website is here.

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