Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TIFF -- Whip It!

First, who knew there was another Wilson brother? Not me.

Monday morning, (I know, Monday morning!) I saw WHIP IT, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut about Roller Derby.

I’m a little on the fence about this film, but mostly on the positive side -- just not on the jumping up and down raving about it side. Some of the performances were amazing. Marcia Gay Harden as the mom, Kristen Wiig, as usual stealing scenes with her dry delivery, andJuliette Lewis in a great performance in a made-for-her role. I mean, really, why hasn’t Juliette Lewis played a roller derby bully before now?

But back to my opening question... Through the whole film, I kept wondering, who does their coach remind me of? It wasn’t his appearance, it was his voice, his accent, his phrasing, his entire manner of speaking. And it finally hit me: he was doing a Luke Wilson impression. Or that’s what I thought, until we got to the credits and I saw the actor was named Andrew Wilson.

A quick peruse of imdb.com shows he’s been in quite a few films, but I don’t think I’ve noticed him before. Also turns out that it's actually Owen Wilson who does a pretty great Andrew Wilson impression, since according to their bios on imdb.com, Andrew is the oldest.

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned the lead yet, Ellen Page. She was good, as always, but I thought the biggest stretch of the imagination for the audience was to believe tiny little Ellen Page as a roller derby player. But that’s why I’m glad I stayed for the Q&A.

I wasn’t at the first screening of this movie, and so neither Drew, nor any of the actors were at the screening I was at... :-( but who was there was the screenwriter. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I mean, we all know the writer’s the star, right? Here's a photo of the writer, Shauna Cross, during her Q&A.

Cross said a couple of interesting things about casting Ellen Page. First, that she pretty much wrote the part with Ellen in mind, after seeing her in Hard Candy. (A very disturbing little film, if you've never seen it.) Second, that she was attached to this project before Juno even happened (crushing my assumptions) and third, that there are lots of girls that tiny in roller derby. Who knew? The tiny girls are prized for being fast, getting through small holes in the pack, and bouncing back up when they fall. Hmmm... Shows how much I didn't know about roller derby. I mean, who even knew that roller derby had experienced a revival? I thought it had died a well-deserved death in the 70’s.

But while I’m still not sure I really developed an appreciation for this campy, showy sport, that has more in common with the WWE than speed skating, I do now understand the objective and how you score. :-)

And was very impressed that almost all of the skating and stunts were done by the actors, especially Ellen Page, who the screenwriter says could easily hold her own in a real roller derby league. There was actually a live demo of the sport in downtown Toronto Friday night featuring the cast and some local roller derby players... but I couldn't go.

So, I guess I haven’t really reviewed this film… It’s a tad predictable (but with a few choices that are less than cliché). I certainly could've done without a few things, like the food fight, but overall the performances and writing make it an enjoyable film to watch.

It opens in a couple of weeks. Here's the trailer if you haven't already seen it.


Anonymous said...

Good review! Hmm, maybe it's a rental. Saw gala of Pippa Lee yesterday and no q-and-a...boo! Was at great q-and-a for Defendor, though...

Bev Katz Rosenbaum said...

Whoops, didn't mean for that to be 'Anonymous'. It was me!

Maureen McGowan said...

I was there too, Bev! Main floor, second row in the middle on the right aisle. Can you see me now?

I've never seen a Q&A for a gala. But loved the film. LOVED it.

My main annoyance was that I was about 15 feet from the podium during the intros, and thought I'd get an amazing photo, then those (tall) professional photographers rushed in and completely blocked my view. I hate when they let them do that.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Glad to see you're in the full swing of TFF. And, yes, the screenwriter IS the rockstar ;)

Wylie Kinson said...

I think I'll see this one. Love the cast. And thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes stuff. Interesting!

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