Thursday, 15 April 2010

Steven Spielberg's goddaughter

Who knew she could act until 2009? Up until Grey Gardens, the wonderful made for TV movie based on a true story, Drew Barrymore had gone from cute child star to troubled teenager, and had emerged from this as another formulaic actress who did comedies. And romantic comedies.

I'd seen her in E.T, I'd seen her in The Wedding Singer (which is probably Adam Sandler's best film, but let's not get sidetracked), and I'd suffered through Charlie's Angels. All her other films weren't what I would usually watch, so I never considered following her career, like I do with other actors and actresses, until now.

I decided to watch Grey Gardens when it was aired in the UK over Christmas, not only because Drew had received an Emmy for her performance and dozens of rave reviews online, but also because I vaguely recall listening to the cast album of the Broadway musical adaptation. I watched it, and I was blown away. Her performance was fantastic, moving and poignant in every way. Suddenly, in my mind, Drew was an actress.

Whip It (2009) was her directorial debut. It's finally been released in the UK, so I went to the cinema with my Mum to see it yesterday. I was a bit concerned, because it looked like a stereotypical teen-comedy, but after talking to many people who had been surprised by it and reading some very good reviews I decided to give it a chance. It also helped that the cast included Ellen Page, who in my opinion is one of the best young actresses working in film, and Kristen Wiig, who I recently noticed in Adventureland (2009) and on Saturday Night Live.

I really loved the film, and thought it was one of the best teen comedies I have ever seen. My Mum enjoyed it a lot too, which shows it's apeal was not just limited to the teenage market. The script was clever and each of the characters were written sassily with plenty of good one-liners, so each character had a chance to "get some laughs" and shows their own personalities.

So, what was the film actually about? It was about roller derby, an old American sport which has just been given a new lease of life. Well, that was what the film suggested, I'm not trying to generalise all American towns here. Bliss (Ellen Page's character) lived with her mother, father and younger sister. Her mother is obsessed with beauty pageants and wants Bliss and her sister to achieve what she never could, so thus enters them for as many as possible. Whilst Bliss' sister loves this, Bliss isn't so keen, even dying her hair blue as a dare in attempt to liven up a dull pageant. One day she spots an advert for a roller derby, and decides to go with her best friend, Pash, to watch. They are both enthralled by it, and after the game Bliss meets two of the girls from the team who suggest she tries out. She does, and gets on the team. Now Bliss has discovered this new talent, a whole new life evolves for her as the team, who were on a losing streak, begin to win with her help. New friends, including a boyfriend, follow, but this is at the expense of her former life....

Sounds average, doesn't it? But it wasn't. The energertic and fresh performances of the cast coupled with the excitement of the roller derby moved the story along quickly and ensured that we were never bored, Ellen gave a great performance as Bliss, and really carried the film. Drew, as well as directing, played one of the roller girls, called Smashlee Simpson. She was rarely on the screen, and her character was bit mad, but it was still a good performance. Kristen Wiig's character was almost a split personality, and the way she played her made me fall in love with the motherly side of her character. Jimmy Fallon was incredibly entertaining, I had had no idea that he acted before the film.

Drew's first feature as a director was really good. The camera angles were really good in capturing the action, and the setting of the film perfect. It took what she's been acting in for the mpast couple of decades to an amazing, original new level, which makes me wonder why, if she has managed to do this, she didn't choose to act in better quality films before? It seems that she is following in the footsteps of her godfather after all.

Overall, Whip It was a great film to see and be entertained by. Dear John, across the corridor, was sold out. Sadly, only about a quarter of our cinema was full, which was a shame because Whip It was probably a lot better and original than Dear John...

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