As a performer, Drew Barrymore’s charm lies in her free-spiritedness, and even when this devil-may-care approach bites her in the butt she still garners our sympathies. While she's no longer an adorable child star, she still seems unwilling to crossover into the beautifully painful world of grown-ups. Therefore, she slips free of the grip of both the beauty and the pain, which might explain her appeal.
Yet Barrymore has embraced the business of life behind the camera, producing films, since 1999, that have caught her fancy, and now she takes a turn in the director’s chair with Whip It, the story of a ragtag team of Texas roller derby girls who inspire a lifelong outsider (Ellen Page) to find her own place in the raucous world of wheeled mayhem. It's the kind of story that plays like a random thought drifting through Barrymore’s beautiful mind, and even with the on-the-nose typecasting of Page as the hip, smart upstart, there’s never any doubt that this is Barrymore’s whip to crack.
The movie fits into the classic underdog sports genre alongside The Bad News Bears, but even the mere mention of that movie triggers instant kinship with Barrymore because she is the pure embodiment of the Bears and their drunken coach. She is our lovable loser, but it makes you wonder, in one of those less generous grown-up moments, how much longer can she pull off this Peter Pan act. Will we still love her when she finally settles down? Grade: B-
Opens Oct. 2. Check out theaters and show times, see the film's trailer and get theater details here.