So I’ve been sick all week and thankfully my cousin from Scotland is here to help me overeat brownies and complete the ‘Colossus’ crossword in the Women’s Weekly without a thesaurus. The other thing we did was hire out Juno and Whip It and watch them in succession (with a 20 minute break in-between to bake cornflake cookies). As it turns out, Ellen Page is quite the talented actress. Having recently seen Inception too, I’m kind of into this tiny pale-skinned girl who manages to still look good with messy hair, oversized jeans and flannel shirt – her costume in all three films, pretty much.
|EP in Whip It|
In some ways, Juno and Whip It are the same film. Girl-in-small-town surprises parents-who-love-her with bombshell (pregnancy/roller derby respectively) and family makes their way through aftermath with fights, tears, swearing and hugs. Girl goes through difficult life lessons. Has fight with boyfriend/best friend. Girl gets wise words from parent/older friend, eats humble pie, apologises and VOILA: girl has baby successfully/takes part in roller derby successfully, and everyone’s a winner even though the proposed adoptive dad of the baby turns out to be sleaze bag, and the derby team comes in second in the championship. Substitute Juno’s cute acoustic soundtrack with Whip It’s cute girl-punk soundtrack and there ain’t a whole lot of difference in terms of overarching story arc. In fact there is nothing particularly new about this story arc at all: girls come-of-age through similar plot lines in a) Clueless, b) Mean Girls, c) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, d) Labyrinth, e) Degrassi High and f) the Saddle Club (books and ABC series).
And yet: Juno and Whip It still seem original. Neither of them stray far from the template (and everyone loves a template, otherwise we wouldn’t cry every time we see Frodo realises what a jerk he’s been to Sam) but the catalysts they use for exploring the template – teen pregnancy, and roller derby – are reasonably unique and till now unaddressed in the teen flick genre.
Whip It is a little more templatey than the June-dog – it contains a bunch of speedy and unexplainable plot turns (Bliss just happens to be in Austin and see a derby team in a store and just happens to sneak off to Austin to watch them and just happens to be a great skater even though she hasn’t skated for years and just happens to get immediately accepted into the team). But these things are forgivable because the film isn’t primarily about roller derby – it’s about Bliss realising how much her mum loves her, how much she loves her mum, the importance of doing what you love but the importance of communicating and respecting those who have sacrificed a lot for your happiness. This heart of the story is expressed so effectively (I cried both times) that the film can be excused for not wholly focussing on the feminist undertones of roller derby and the real ins and outs of the sport.
|EP as pregnant gal.|
Juno skims over some details too (6 months of pregnancy go by a little too quickly – and where the heck does Michael Sera get to? He totally appears conveniently when Juno is ready to crack it with life and then again when she’s ready to apologise) but where Whip It sacrifices some storyline for the sake of the template, Juno keeps the template and manages to engage a little more comprehensively with the issue at hand. Teen pregnancy is rarely addressed so positively in films – in Juno, abortion is barely an option, the parents are hugely supportive, and the 16 year old is the one who makes all the decisions – by herself – about the future of her baby. And through this Juno learns her coming-of-age life lessons about trusting people, the importance of being valued for who you are, and the importance of seeing other people for who they really are.
Aww! So warm and fuzzy, the both of them. I won’t get started on Inception but let me just say Ellz does an awesome job at breaking down the male protagonist’s ego – literally! Freud is probs turning in his grave. But it's all about helping Leo become the man he wants to be. So she gets a go at helping others learn life lessons…all part of the great circle of life.