It’s been an action-packed couple of weeks, comrades, and to bust through my non-writing torpor and return to the fray, I have chosen to shoot fish in a barrel. Drew Barrymore’s excruciating directorial debut will help segue me nicely into something that interests me lately, the state of Women’s Entertainment.
Even with liberal use of the fast forward button, Whip It feels endless, which it sort of is for an action movie/chick flick: just 10 minutes short of 2 hours. It features a laundry list of things I tend to avoid at any cost, first and foremost of which is Ms. Barrymore, who has never been told that what’s adorable on a 4 year old in ET is downright skin-crawling in a woman of, oh, say, 11 or so. There’s also an enormous kitschy pig sculpture upon which the wee Ellen Page perches, practically waving a placard that says, “It’s my new hamburger phone! Don’t I personify whimsy?”, and the current president of the AARP, Juliette Lewis, who miraculously doesn’t break a hip in the proceedings. (Sour grapes on my part, to be sure; as a Chinese cook at an early restaurant job in NY used to say, “I am not a young chicken” myself; curses, Lewis, I’ll defeat you next time!)
The script serves up every possible cliche with banal verve, including the one that novelists (I’m restraining myself from putting quotes around that word in this instance) should never try to adapt their work into screenplays. Airless and dull, the situations have all the energy of a lazy, bored cat swiping at a piece of yarn, which is no doubt why Jimmy Fallon gets a prominent role; whether he’s the cat or the yarn, I leave to your discernment.
Andrew Wilson is a bright spot, and why this unobnoxious sibling of the insufferable Owen and expanding Luke doesn’t get more air time is a bit mystifying. In fact, like other actor/directors, Barrymore casts pretty well. There is the lovely Eve, with a great camera presence, and Zoe Bell, who is to Kate Hudson what Andrew is to his brothers; with even a decent script, any of these actors would be a treat to watch in solo or combo form. Kristen Wiig has a strange, blank-faced intensity and zinger timing; she can stitch up a serviceable purse out of a pig’s ear deftly every time, and you just wish, once again, that someone would give her even B-game material. And there is my beloved homegirl, Detroit Derby Girl Summers Eve-l, who skates like the bad ass she is and isn’t in the movie nearly enough. Googling for images and video of her and her team is time better spent than wading through this tripe.
There’s a cynicism about a movie like this, with its Sure Bet totems littering the screen, that’s hard to forgive. Similar to the abominable Sex and the City franchise, it trumpets that in the age of Jackass, women eat shit sandwiches with gusto as long as the bread is pink. A documentary on Roller Derby and its resurgence is surely in the works, and could potentially pump up a generation of scrappy little girls who want to channel their anger to cut a bitch (don’t we all, sometimes?). Meanwhile, the Women’s Picture continues to be an utter and complete embarrassment; no wonder “pussy” is considered an insult. Shouldn’t it be a supreme compliment?