Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whip It / Derby Girl

I'm hoping to volunteer at my local library with a special book and/or film club targeted at teens and young adults. My first assignment was for Tuesday: Derby Girl by Shauna Cross, the novel that inspired Whip It starring Ellen Page and Kristin Wiig and marked the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore. The meeting didn't really fare well, what with all the kids on snow day and such, but I'm so glad it inspired me to read Derby Girl, because it's hilarious. Because of my inability to turn off the inner-critic if I've read the book before the movie and I've been dying to see the movie before I knew anything about a book, I decided to watch the film first. (It also didn't hurt that I had been more in a lazy mood to watch movies over reading books and each theatrical experience is different the first time...I wanted my virgin experience with this particular material to be worthwhile.)

I definitely recommend watching it first, or you might be very tempted to stop at every bit and fuss about the discrepancies, but since Ms. Cross was herself the screenwriter, at least you can be content with the fact that the film is true to the source material and literally comes from the source herself, a real Los Angeles Derby Doll (or at least says the book jacket). As usual, Ellen Page steals the show as her usual charming self, although she doesn't have quite the same tenacity or script as Juno. It's really a shame too, but as the original novel is just as sarcastic as Juno, albeit a first-person narration, I can see the difficulty in translating that to screen without a voiceover. It's a lot of what's unsaid except in Ellen's face. And of course, although she doesn't shine nearly as she does on SNL (which really isn't hard to do nowadays with a lack of good writing), Kristin Wiig is equally delightful as Page's Derby Godmother, so to speak.

I like the movie for fun as itself, but there's a number of things that aren't explained and are just subtly thrown in that you only catch upon second viewings about the setting and characters. Of course, there's plenty of funny one-liners in the book that are left out, but I can see why it just wouldn't work out within the confines of the film. Then again, there are sequences in the film and even particular details, that while present in the book, are altered just enough that they really make quite a difference in the way they made it to screen. As I reviewed large segments of the film with my librarian colleague, I realized there are definitely some favorite scenes that play far better in the film version than the book. It's rather like the novel version of Derby Girl (later reissued in its second edition with the film's title... I read the first edition, however) is an earlier draft, the film version a much more refined one.

Also, I was rather annoyed because the "Rental Exclusive" version of the DVD I borrowed from the library doesn't have any of the dozen or so deleted or extended scenes, so make sure you do your homework before check out, kids. Alas, I guess I'll just have to buy it then :) And special shoutout to my new acquaintance, Charles, from the library, for hooking me up with my very own copy of Whip It! the novel. Yay, free books!

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