2 Stars - Shallow
Though it is a common experience for parents to impose their dreams upon their children, it creates unwelcome pressure and difficulty in the relationship. Whether it is a pageant mom or a little-league dad, the predictable result is a frustrated child who must at some point courageously find their own voice. Told with a charm that matches both her personality and that of her leading character, Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It!” is just such a tale.
Putting herself in a supporting role, Barrymore’s story was written by Shauna Cross and stars the appealing Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar, a.k.a. Babe Ruthless. As the oldest daughter of Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden) and Earl (Daniel Stern), Bliss has been forced to live out her mother’s dream of being a pageant queen. Compliant but unhappy, Bliss happens upon the subculture of roller-derby. Obviously opposite to the world of beauty pageants, roller-derby becomes a perfect choice for this seventeen-year old young woman to establish her own identity.
Assuming that her mother would not allow her to make such a choice, Bliss lies to her parents about where she is going and, with the support of her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat), tries out for the weakest team in the league, the Hurl Scouts. She is a natural.
Although the film has some interesting derby moments, this is only a vehicle for Bliss’ exploration of the world. In this new world that she discovers, she finds love, acceptance and herself. Love comes in the form of Oliver (Landon Pigg), the lead singer of a small rock band which is also a part of the derby culture. Their young love has all the expected twists and turns of first loves.
Acceptance comes from the family of skaters who make up her team. Unexpectedly inclusive, Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore), Coach Razor (Andrew Wilson) and the other members of their team take this young woman under wing, teaching her about skating and life.
The predictable coming-of-age journey Bliss takes is more difficult because of the lack of wisdom of her parents and the absence of any spiritual values, transcendent wisdom or community of faith. This absence causes the film to approach life’s issues from a shallow perspective which makes the tale lack depth in spite of its charm. In the end, every child coming of age needs all the wisdom and faith humanity has been given. When this is missing, it causes unnecessary growing pains both for Bliss and all of us who view the film.
Discussion for those who have seen the film:
When Bliss falls for Oliver, she eventually decides to “give up everything,” as she expresses it. What do you think she means by this description? Do you think she should have continued their relationship or not?
The competition between Bliss and Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) includes unexpected respect. Do you believe their relationship would blossom into friendship or not?
Did you ever experience your parents placing their dreams upon you to fulfill? How did you deal with this?