Roller derby chick flicks aren’t novel. I have fond memories from the ’70s of catching endless TV replays of The Kansas City Bomber, with its vaguely kinky girl-on-girl aggression (it starred Raquel Welch, who wasn’t quite an actress but knew how to get mad). So I was primed to see Whip It, the first movie directed by Drew Barrymore, with Ellen Page as a 17-year-old small-town Texas high school student (Page, with her elfin girlishness, will probably be playing 17-year-olds when she’s 37), who lies about her age in order to join the Hurl Scouts, a roller derby team based in Austin. Barrymore is such a nice, sweet person that you may wonder how she could possibly have directed a movie about demon women on wheels whose primary athletic activity consists of bashing each other’s bodies.
Here’s how. Whip It is a nice, sweet roller derby movie. There’s no edge to it, and not much originality — it’s like A League of Their Own with tattoos and knocked heads. Page plays Bliss Cavender, a milder, softer version of one of her alienated outsiders, who auditions for the Hurl Scouts in order to feel, you know, empowered. But the women she’s skating with — they have names like Bloody Holly and Eva Destruction; they’re played by (among others) Zoë Bell, Kristen Wiig, and Barrymore herelf — are beer-spitting bruisers in Dee Snider makeup who get off on bringing the pain. Ellen Page looks as if she’d be crushed, if not eaten, by these people. On a fundamental physical level, I never bought that she could survive for a minute inside their sadomasochistic sisterhood. READ FULL STORY »