I’ve mentioned before that Julia and I rely a fair amount on what a given movie’s rating is over at Rotten Tomatoes. Given they pull from a significant number of reviewers, you can get a pretty good idea about whether or not a movie sucks before you lay down your hard-earned cash. It’s probably saved us from wasting time on more than one clunker over the last couple years.
Still, the bastards are far from infallible. A couple weeks ago I talked about the movie Whiteout, which was running a scintillating 6% on RT when we saw it, and I came away thinking it was worth a much more favorable rating. Contrast that now with the movie I’m primed to talk about, the roller derby girl-coming-of-age flick (featuring the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore) Whip It, which is running an impressive 81% at RT.
The Backstory: Why We Wanted to Go in the First Place
Julia and I have a history with roller derby. Early in our relationship, when I would visit her in Tucson, she was doing a solo gig at a club called Plush, and I went to see her. When we arrived in the parking lot, this little pickup came careening into it and these rowdy tattooed chicks dressed in skimpy waitress uniforms came tumbling out. They were The Furious Truckstop Waitresses and had just come from a match. I was intrigued, because at that time I was not aware how much of a resurgance roller derby was experiencing (this was probably at least 6 years or so ago), and it had very little to do with the short skirts and fishnets. Julia was friends with a couple of them, and was, at the time, even considering joining the team, I think.
Anyway, another time we actually went to one of their matches, and it was one of the greatest sport events I’ve ever been to. It was in this big warehouse, and there were a lot of people there. The contest was exciting, the energy was high, there were fights, wipeouts right at our feet (roller derby as depicted in the movie is a bit different from the reality; a good comparison is provided in a Nashville Scene interview with “real-life Nashville Rollergirl jammer Ramb0 Samb0” who also happens to be the girlfriend of Eric Powell, the creator of one of my favorite comic characters, The Goon), it was just a great, great time. I’ve considered myself a fan ever since — it was awesome. So when the inevitable movie with the sport a major part of the plot arrived, we knew we were going.
We Just Want to See the Damn Movie!
We had to take two stabs at seeing this thing, which probably didn’t help. The first time, last weekend, we literally had to sit through the trailer for the (steaming pile of shit that was the) 2nd Pirates of the Caribbean movie about 20 times, and that is no exaggeration (because I never exaggerate). Apparently they use that trailer as kind of a test piece for syncing up audio and video, and the audio was royally hosed in the theater we were trying to see Whip It in. Trust me: when you see a guy standing in the projection booth with a puzzled expression and a spaghetti mess of unterminated audio cables in his fists, it’s probably a good indication that your movie experience may be compromised. Ultimately they ran us out of there, but we got free passes to try again later, which we did a couple nights ago (we almost had deja vu all over again, because the video was hosed on our second try, but they sorted that out quickly).
Parts of this movie I enjoyed, but other parts — a majority of parts, in fact — I hated with the heat of 10,000 exploding suns. How it rates an 81% makes me wonder if the majority of these yayhoos saw the same goddamn flick I did! The movie needed way less boyfriend story, and way more toughness and roller derbying. I came away pretty disappointed. It was just too freakin’ cute, and it didn’t need to be.
First of all, this Ellen Page that all the reviewers are so ga-ga over was horribly cast, in my opinion. She looks like she’s about 12, and we’re supposed to believe the people in the movie believe she’s 22? I felt a little perverted every time they showed her in a miniskirt, for crissakes, and that takes some work. Apparently she’s the big star of that movie Juno, which I never saw, and has joined Titanic as one of those “great” films I’ve never seen yet have decided to hate for all eternity (I just had to read a couple reviews and look at the Juno soundtrack to know I’d hate it)(at least Titanic found a little redemption when Woody Harrelson says, “I haven’t cried this much since I saw Titanic!” in Zombieland, which is an awesome movie). So I wasn’t blinded by her impish, whimsical cuteness. Nor did I have much sympathy for her character. The movie did a poor job of showing her alienation in her cozy little, two-parent suburban household, where she was apparently pretty free to come and go as she wanted, didn’t really get hassled all that much, and in a world of psycho moms had one that really wasn’t all that psycho. Add that she’s all cute with perfect skin and not greasy or overweight or particularly harassed by classmates, and her life seemed pretty goddamn decent from what I could see. I would have preferred to see the girl who played her best friend, Alia Shawkat, as the main character instead.
Throw in this scrawny hipster asshole in a horrible indie hipster band that was terrible as a love interest that gets totally overdone with some of the most overblown stupid scenes I’ve ever witnessed and my rage gurgled like the lava in the deepest pit of the most irritable volcano on the planet. I was trying to fastforward the damn movie with my Blackberry every time those scenes were on screen. The l-a-m-e “romantic” swimming pool seduction scene (which took place entirely underwater) was the penultimate in stupidity. I was hoping it would end like the swimming pool scene at the end of Let the Right One In did, but unfortunately it didn’t. And when she ultimately slaps him across the face, it was a blow so weak that I’ve seen mosquitos die with more force at 3rd grade day camps. Little Ellen probably didn’t want to make the actor playing her “boyfriend” cry. Jeez, I’m getting all angry just recalling it. I may need to go streak around the block just to cool off, seeing how it’s about 20 degrees outside and dark.
Hey, I like Drew Barrymore a lot, so I’m glad the movie is successful. And I think Eve is pretty cool too, and she has a small role. But the true highlight for me, and the big surprise was that Zoe Bell was in it.
I love Zoe Bell, who got her start in movies as a stuntwoman. She was the double for Lucy Lawless in Xena — The Warrior Princess. She was Uma Thurman‘s double in the Kill Bill movies. She was also in Tarantino’s Death Proof (where she did the awesome “ship’s mast” stunt on the hood of a speeding car) which was the first time I saw her play herself. She also did this movie called Angel of Death, written by Ed Brubaker (of Captain America fame; yes, not only does the motherfucker get to write Captain freakin’ America, but he also knows Zoe freakin’ Bell! What an asshole. . . . ), that came out in serial installments online that is now available via DVD. Here’s a picture of her on the set of Angel of Death, about to kick Ed in the face, plus a couple other shots:
Here’s an interview with Zoe about the movie, plus a few other things, well worth checking out. One thing Julia and I talked about afterwards (or, at least I did, Julia was probably grinding her teeth) was how Zoe seemed like an amazon among all the other women. Just tall and buff, and, I don’t know, imposing. But getting online afterward, I learned she’s 5’8″, which really isn’t that tall. Lucy Lawless is the same height as Julia — 5’10 1/2″. Drew Barrymore is only 5’4″. That means Ellen Page must be about a towering 4’9″ or so, and weigh all of 85 pounds. Yikes. Someone get that girl a baconator!
It probably sounds like I hated the movie, but I didn’t — it’s always fun to go to the movies on a week night, and Julia and I usually have a good time when we go out, one way or the other. I wouldn’t recommend it to be seen by anyone other than as a rental, and I’d give it a thumbs-down, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It was fun in parts (I love the big pig on the roof of the BBQ joint where the main character works, because I dig that kind of thing), and it made me want to go back to Austin; I could envision exactly where the camera crew was set up to shoot the outside of Waterloo Records in Austin, since I’ve been pretty much in that exact spot. But an 81%er it damn sure wasn’t! In the end, even Zoe Bell couldn’t save it.