“Whip It” is the coming-of-age story of Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) an average, shy teenager in the small town of Bodine, Texas. She is an outcast at school, hates her waitressing job at the Oink Joint, and spends her weekends being shoved into beauty pageants by her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). One day Bliss grabs a flyer for an Austin roller derby league and, after convincing her friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) to drive her, tells her parents she’s taking a SAT class and lies about her age so she can try out for the team. She impresses the coach, Razor (Andrew Wilson), and becomes Babe Ruthless, newest member of the Hurl Scouts roller derby team.
When Bliss finds roller derby, she finds independence, self-confidence and someplace she finally belongs. She struggles to find balance between her home life, where she is trying to make her mother happy, and her derby life, where she is finally happy. Eventually, it all comes crashing down when the truth about her age and her “SAT class” comes out. Bliss has to ask herself what is most important to her and follow her heart.
“Whip It” may not do anything new or revolutionary with the coming-of-age genre, but it is a lot of fun; you want to be there with the characters racing around the track slamming and crashing into each other. It’s fast-paced, quirky, and has some surprisingly heartfelt and genuine moments. Besides the strong performances of Page and Harden, the film also has an amazing supporting cast, including Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem, captain of the team and Bliss’ mentor; Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven, a rival roller diva; and Drew Barrymore as Smashley Simpson, a fellow Hurl Scout with a small anger management problem. Daniel Stern and Jimmy Fallon also star to round out this roller derby world.
Another reason to see “Whip It” is the soundtrack. Barrymore, who makes her directorial debut with the film, puts together an album that she calls in the liner notes “a mix tape for you!” It’s a rock/punk/pop mix that reflects the movie’s characters and keeps the hard-hitting derby spirit in mind. It includes a variety of artists like: The Ramones, Tilly and the Wall, Dolly Parton, and Landon Pigg (who also gives acting a try as Bliss’s boyfriend).
There are a few clichéd moments, but overall “Whip It” is definitely worth your time. It is an upbeat film with a positive girl-power message. Bliss learns how to stand up for herself by lacing up her skates and falling on her face. She, as the movie tagline says, becomes her own hero. And, as one character puts it, if that isn’t enough of a reason for you, go for the “hot girls in fishnets beating the crap out of each other.”