Whip It,
directed by Drew Barrymore
(20th Century Fox, 2009)

Getting your first set of wheels is quite a coming-of-age experience, but most people who think in terms of wheels have a motor vehicle on their minds. For Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page of Juno), those wheels are a pair of roller skates -- and some bitches on wheels.

When we first see young Bliss, she's competing in the Bluebonnet Pageant at the direction of her Mom (Marcia Gay Harden). Bliss has some pretty big shoes to fill, since Mom won in her day, and her little sister seems to be destined to go all the way in pageantland. But Bliss is not the kind of girl who wants to stand in her "space" and sing "The Greatest Love of All." Tiaras and talent contests aren't really what Bliss is about. A shopping trip to Austin, Texas, changes her life when she meets a bunch of roller-derby girls. She's invited to try out and lies about her age (she has to be 21) to do so. Even on her old Barbie skates, she's fast enough to make the team.

And Babe Ruthless is born. Timid at first, Bliss gradually gets in the groove. Big surprise, her team The Hurl Scouts is no longer settling for losing the game. With Bliss's new energy, they are ready to go for the gold. There's a lot of humor and heart in this story and many of us are seeing a sport that we don't often encounter in a way that changes a lot of perspectives on roller derby and the young women who engage in it.

Shauna Cross's young-adult novel of the same name translated really well into a great young-adult film capable of following in Juno's very large shoes. The film's director and producer, Drew Barrymore, also appears as Smashley Simpson, one of Bliss's teammates.

If you loved Juno and Page's witty performance, you are at least going to like this film. Maybe not for pageant moms, but the message is strong -- every young girl deserves her "bliss," whether it's wearing a tiara or a pair of skates.

review by
Becky Kyle

26 March 2011

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