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One of the interesting things about running our actors-turned-directors season has been exploring how the screen personas of the movie stars we’ve featured have bled into their work behind the camera. Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do is sunny, nostalgic and optimistic. Danny DeVito’s Matilda has a wicked streak of dark humour, and Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It – the subject of this week’s podcast is goofy, physical and a whole lot of fun.
Like Hanks and DeVito, Barrymore takes a supporting role onscreen in Whip It, playing a violence-prone skater with an instantly dated stage name (Smashlee Simpson). You kind of wish she’d given herself more to do – Ellen Page is a perfectly adequate lead as a frustrated teenager who becomes drawn to the high-octane world of legally questionable women’s roller derby, but her arc isn’t terribly interesting or original, and when you have the likes of Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig padding out your cast, keeping them largely on the sidelines feels like a missed opportunity.
On the plus side, everybody involved – with the exception of an unspeakably dull love interest played by Landon Pigg – appears to be having the time of their lives filming it, and that enthusiasm keeps the film enjoyable even when its relying largely on well-worn cliches. That the movie barely made a dent at the box office back in 2009 probably speaks to how difficult it must have been to pigeonhole – nowadays it would probably work much better as a Glow-style Netflix series that broadened out the characters and broke the fairly inconsequential plot down into more easily digestible 22 minute portions.
Still, if the response to our online poll is any indication, this movie may have found its audience over the years on TV and DVD – that or it was the default beneficiary of none of our listeners particularly wanting to listen to us wax lyrical on Jodie Foster’s The Beaver or Angelina Jolie’s By The Sea for an hour.
In this week’s episode, we discuss the weirdness of women in their mid-late thirties behaving like teenage frat boys, the confusing rules of Roller Derby and why Juliette Lewis needs to be in many more things. We also found rich pickings for drinking game inspiration while viewing this movie, which we’re delighted to share with you for future viewings. And of course there’s the matter of our own fantasy sequel pitches, both of which deal with Ellen Page’s own passing-of-the-torch to an upcoming generation of Roller Derby stars – whether they like it or not.
Our Whip It episode is available on all good Podcasting platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play, just follow the links at the top of this blog post. If you enjoy the show you can also show some support by subscribing, rating and reviewing us on your preferred platform, or by becoming a VIP listener for as little as $2 per month on our Patreon page. For more information or to hurl online abuse at us, feel free to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Next week, we conclude our movie stars-turned-directors season with one of the most infamously hubristic bombs of the mid-90s. Strap on your life jacket, it’s going to be a wet and wild ride…