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Whip It

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

The hard-edged world of women's roller derby provides the setting for the coming-of-age tale "Whip It" (Fox Searchlight). Rather than serving as a forum for feminist self-expression, as first-time director Drew Barrymore seems to intend, the rough and tumble of the showcased competition—with its skimpy outfits and bruising smackdowns calculated to delight boorish male fans—comes across as more exploitative than empowering.

Throwing herself into this ostensibly liberating underground sport is restless small-town Texas high school student Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page). Since her strong-willed, socially ambitious mother Brooke's (Marcia Gay Harden) fondest wish for Bliss is that she become the queen of the local beauty pageant circuit, Bliss carefully conceals her new enthusiasm both from Mom and from her amiable but henpecked father Earl (Daniel Stern).

With the support of her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat), and despite not having skated since she was a little girl, Bliss gains a spot on an Austin-based team known as the Hurl Scouts, becoming the protege of their captain, Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig). As her skills improve and her star rises, Bliss—who now goes by the moniker Babe Ruthless— discovers romance, falling for derby fan and local rock singer Oliver (Landon Pigg) whom she meets at one of the Scouts' matches.

Barrymore's genre-blending debut—partly a sports drama and a romantic comedy as well as a chronicle of teen maturation—in which she plays Smashley Simpson, another of Bliss' colorfully nicknamed teammates, is buoyed by heartfelt performances from its principals.

But, though Shauna Cross' script, adapted from her own novel of the same title, has Bliss grapple with the negative consequences of premature freedom—and come to a better appreciation of her parents—it also, at least partially, glamorizes her irresponsible sexual experimentation.

The film contains nongraphic nonmarital underage sexual activity, brief partial nudity, underage drinking, occasional irreverence, a few uses of profanity, some sexual humor and references, about a dozen crude terms and much crass language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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James of the Marche: Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop! 
<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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