Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Drew gamely tries to "Whip It" into a hit

Drew Barrymore hosts "Saturday Night Live" this week, looking to lure fans of the 35-year-old show into theaters still showing "Whip It," her directorial debut.
The former childhood star must have thought it would be easier than all this, since her well-reviewed film (a 79 rating from the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. and 82 from Rotten Tomatoes) looked like a cinch to be a huge hit after its buzz-inducing showings last month at the 34th annual Toronto International Film Festival.
Canadian press easily boasted photos and talk of festival exploits from happy-go-lucky Barrymore and a cast that includes Ellen Page, Eve, Juliette Lewis, "SNL" player Kristen Wiig and Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden. Then their roller derby movie opened last weekend to less than $5 million on a little more than 1,700 screens.
"I think that life is about love and laughter and your friends and, hopefully, trying to gain acceptance and support from your family along the way," Barrymore said during a TIFF press conference. "This (movie) was the perfect blueprint for me to put all of that into. It was just a magical sort of aligning of the stars, that these were all the things important to me and here's this story that I can put it on and have roller derby, which is such an interesting and unique backdrop, and so perfectly metaphorical to all those scenes.
Added Page, the film's legitimate star as a young lady-turned derby queen: "This script came along and just with the idea of it, before I got it, I was excited about the prospect of doing a film about a girl who's not being viciously forced into beauty pageants by any means but is doing something because it's very much her mother's interest. She wants to please her mother and have this connection with her.
"Then she finds this new world of roller derby that she falls in love with. Then I got the screenplay and it was incredibly sincere, and the relationships were real and wholehearted, and it didn't treat the teenager like a teenager in a patronizing way. She was a (real) person.
"Every time someone answers a question about the film," Page concluded, "I can't stop smiling because I just love everybody. I'm crazy about everybody."
But will "everybody" start showing up at theaters this weekend? Barrymore might still think so.
"I just tried to make a film that was really for so many people," the director/star said. "It's a mother/daughter love story and it's about family. I feel like my goal was to make this film from my heart, my personal experiences but (also) make it for everybody because, like derby, it's a very sort of welcoming environment whatever your ethnicity or economic background or age or personal experience."
Just roll, baby, roll!

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