There is an entire culture around women’s roller derby that most people are unaware of; they will be no better informed after watching Whip It. On the other hand, it is a good chick flick about finding one’s place in the world.
Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a small town teen looking for her own path. Her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) is trying to steer her to the world of pageantry, but Bliss is only going along with it in an attempt to make her mom proud. During a trip to the city, Bliss discovers a flyer for a roller derby event and is immediately hooked. Her enthusiasm leads to an audition invite and a new name: “Babe Ruthless.” Bliss is on the fast track to a new life, but she has trouble integrating it with her old one.
The story follows most of the established norms for this type of film, including deceiving her parents, failing a friend, meeting a boy and befriending an enemy. However, it’s all done in front of a backdrop that is exciting and not worn out: roller derby. In essence, Bliss could have found a home in any number of sports or recreational groups, but derby is a hot topic right now.
With the acting roster in this picture, nothing but excellent is expected and it delivers. Page is sweet as the outcast she’s portrayed so often, but really shines when she’s attempting to please her mother despite being completely uncomfortable. Though Juliette Lewis’ character is rare in the derby world, she always steps up to the role of villain and nails it. There are no real failings in the film’s acting department, which also includes Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon and Daniel Stern.
Drew Barrymore doubles as a spacey athlete with little screen time and debut director taking the helm for the first time behind the camera. Having played in this type of film numerous times in her own career, Whip It was a fitting project for her to take the lead on. Barrymore does a great job, showing she’s paid attention over the years – the actors always seem to know what they’re doing and the film flows without any major distractions via decisional gaffes.
Special features include: nine deleted scenes, including an alternate opening; a writing featurette with Whip It novelist and screenwriter Shauna Cross; and a digital copy of the film.