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WHIT IT, 2009
In Bodeen, Texas, indie-rock loving misfit Bliss Cavendar (Page) finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.
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Ellen Page is a one in a million actress. There's really no one else to compare herself to in the history of movie stars. She's spunky, real, pretty, insecure, which all add up to her being genuine. The camera can't get enough of her and it's doesn't matter what angle you shoot her at. She's only 22 years old but I have never seen a false moment in any of her performances. She just has it all and as soon as someone with the business smarts of the entertainment industry spotted this charming soul from Nova Scotia, Canada, they probably thought they struck gold. People of this acting ability are rarely found. She is the Lebron James of actresses. A once in a two generations talent.
But talent only goes so far. I've met and seen many extremely talented actors in my day but most of them are lazy. They are like that great athlete we all knew in high school where things come so much easier to them than their peers. They shine in the spotlight because they were born with unique gifts. Then most of those talented people are never heard from again when they join the real world. They were always that big fish in the small pond and as soon as they enter the big pond they realize that there are other fish as big and even bigger than them. They go from extraodinary to average in a split second and most of them can't handle it because this it's something they don't understand.
So in order to stand above the rest you must do three things: 1) Work really hard and obsess yourself in your craft. 2) Choose the right people to be your daily influences who you can learn and create with. and 3) Choose the right projects. Don't sell out for the quick buck and think of your career from a big picture perspective.
After Juno, Ellen Page could of picked a 1000 projects and made millions of dollars. But she took a break to really focus on what she really wanted to do. And it looks like she wants to play real females who have an actual emotional journey. Not a damsel in distress who cries on a man's shoulders just because she's a woman.
Whip It is a logical choice for Page. I'm sure it didn't make her much money but it's the perfect role for her. A girl who must fight (literally in Whip It on the rollar rink) in order for her to be the person she wants to become. She has pressure from her mother on what a woman is supposed to be. And she has pressure from society too. But sometimes you just have to say fuck it and skate around a rink with other fellow maverick woman and kick a little ass. And the more ass you kick, the more you learn about yourself.
Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut in Whip It. I'm sure the role Page plays was a role she would of loved to perform herself back in the day. Barrymore is another person who's still trying to take away the power from the male dominated Hollywood studio brass. She's always wanted to be a part of female driven films. And I'll guarantee as soon as she saw Juno, she knew she had her lead in that script she's been dying to do.
Whip It is an endearing film and it really gets to you in many moments. I had tears in my eyes throughout. But then there are times where the emotional theme of the piece seems to have been lost. This is a film that doesn't have a throughline pace and there are many bumpy transitions throughout. And at almost two hours in length, it's a little long for what it is.
Barrymore's direction is a little rusty as I don't think she ever really found her exact directorial tone in Whip It. This is a tough film to have your debut as Barrymore had a lot of action sequences to perform that was filled with many characters. And I'm sure there were a lot bumps in the journey (literally - many of the actors had some falls on the rollar rink) when they were shooting these scenes. Plus Barrymore was also acting in the film too. I know she's been on movie sets since she was four, but directing a feature for the first time will always be a tough task.
But Ellen Page drives this film home and makes Whip It a must see film in 2009. Her performance is that good. And I'll guarantee that Barrymore's next film will be even better.
And I must give a special plug to actors Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern who played Page's parents in the film. Solid stuff.