With the Arrested Development movie firmly ensconced as the Sasquatch of film projects, forever-taunting fans with glimpses and false positives—get excited: apparently the script is being worked on right this second!—thank goodness for small favors like Whip It. Drew Barrymore’s sunny grrlpower romp, which easily qualifies as one of the best movies we’ve seen in nearly two months, might feature Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Kristin Wiig, Ari Graynor and a host of other interesting leading ladies (why yes, that is Zoe Bell from Death Proof), but the only actress we found ourselves paying complete attention to was Alia Shawkat. Perhaps there is a big future ahead for Maeby Funke after all!
Whereas Michael Cera has had a full, E! True Hollywood Story career since Arrested Development went off the air—in just a year, he’s gone from “put Michael Cera in everything!” to “there is a good chance Youth in Revolt goes straight-to-DVD”—Ms. Shawkat has been quiet. In fact, unless caught yourself watching episodes of The Starter Wife, the chances are good that you haven’t even thought of her since the last time you popped in your old Arrested Development DVDs. Being out-of-sight-out-of-mind works to her advantage in Whip It, however, where she tones down the acerbic sarcasm and detachment that made Maeby so winning. Her scenes with Ms. Page have an easygoing comfort to them, that makes their on-screen friendship feel realistic and lifelong; Ms. Shawkat manages to create one of most believable “best friend characters” that we’ve seen in a teen movie in quite some time.
(We realize that calling Whip It, with its sparking cast and below the line crew—amongst them editor Dylan Tichenor, who was Oscar nominated for There Will Be Blood and Robert Yeoman, who has shot all of Wes Anderson’s films—a “teen movie” is a disservice, but for purposes of genre organization, the shoe unfortunately fits.)
Perhaps the continuous delays to the Arrested Development movie will end up being a boon to Ms. Shawkat’s career. By the time it comes out (if it comes out; pardon us if we don’t share Ms. Shawkat’s positive enthusiasm) she’ll have co-starred in Whip It and the Runaways biopic, aptly titled The Runaways, with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, not to mention whatever else she gets cast in over the next year. Her chances of being typecast are dwindling. Hopefully Michael Cera is paying attention…