I have enjoyed your work as an actress for a long time. I grew up watching romantic comedies, and yours were always some of my favorite. Many people give little thought to the romantic comedy as a genre, writing it off as lacking in subtlety and an intellectual dimension more typically present in a drama or historical film. I’ve always thought, however, that it takes real skill to craft a high quality romantic comedy that withstands the test of time and embodies a certain universality appealing to a wide range of audience members.
With your directorial debut of Whip It, you achieved a success of the highest order. It’s an unassuming movie, without an epic premise, but it is one of the single most well-crafted stories of recent years. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I am always exceptionally delighted when a movie has a female protagonist. Movie culture has traveled away from a time in which the female protagonist was the norm- the spunky Barbara Stanwyck or Katherine Hepburn characters of the 1930s and 1940s, but you brought that heroine back in the telling of this story. Secondly, the mother-daughter relationship in your film is filled with complexity. Too often we see the mother relegated to death, divorce, or distance. Very rarely is this treated with such nuance as in your film. I am aware that the movie was an adaptation from a novel, and I want to applaud Shauna Cross’ work in the adaptation; we must not forget how helpful it is to have such wonderful source material when creating a film. However, without a producer and director such as yourself, this story would not have made it up onto the silver screen. Thank you for caring enough about this story, which should be held as inspiration for a generation of young women to understand the importance of finding yourself, being true to yourself, and not conforming to preconceived notions of femininity or success.
As a student of film, I tend to pay far closer attention to a film’s construction rather than its meaning (or even sometimes its narrative). Certainly, it is an odd way to look at a film, but if the film is truly captivating I find myself able to compartmentalize my analytical brain and enjoy the film for what it is- a compelling story. Indeed, it took me a few views of Whip It before I was able to begin to dissect its construction. It’s a very classically constructed. It is well-shot, and economically edited. It was made to serve the narrative above all else, and the audience is never distracted by an avant-garde camera angle conflicting with a line of crucial dialogue. Too often do I find that in the telling, a story is subsumed to make way for a director’s style. It is possible for a director’s style to manifest itself via the type of story that he or she chooses to tell as opposed to how it is shot. I do not wish to diminish the creative aesthetic side of a movie, or to say that I believe that your film lacks a distinctive visual tone- because it doesn’t. I only wish to emphasize that, at the end of the day, technology exists only to be used as a tool to relay the artistic and creative intention of the filmmaker, not to serve as an ends in itself.
It’s been 5 long years since this directorial effort, and I cannot wait for your next feature. You have a wonderful voice, and have made a film that I hold as high inspiration. Thank you for being a role model.