Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut for 2010’s Whip It is based on Shauna Cross’ novel Derby Girl, who also takes the credit of screenwriter for the movie. Set in Bodeen, Texas, the film follows the ups and downs of Bliss Cavendar (a brilliant Ellen ‘Juno’ Page) who has grown unhappy with her regular suburban life. Forced to compete in beauty pageants by her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), Bliss rebels against her small town expectations when a chance encounter with some roller derby girls unexpectedly help her search to find who she really is.
Whip It has a great supporting cast, including Daniel ‘Home Alone’ Stern, who plays Bliss’ father, and her main parental support in the world of roller derby. Barrymore also makes an appearance as Smashley Simpson, a fellow member of the derby team Hurl Scouts, while Juliette Lewis provides the main bout of vixen competition within the ring. Lewis is known for playing roles considered slightly outside the norm, but here she seems to play it safe, as do the rest of the cast, including Tarantino’s favourite stunt woman/actress Zoë Bell, allowing Page to shine through as the star vehicle. And she does.
Whip It is a classic coming of age story, but is not overtly sentimental. It’s about a young girl forging her own path away from the constraints of her parents, with roller derby as the chosen subculture to help Bliss lives in ‘the moment’, rather than through her mother’s eyes. The film has a great soundtrack, with the likes of .38 Special and The Ramones helping to emphasise the message of teenage rebellion, and its importance to help us all find our own way. Barrymore clearly had fun making this film, and I say to everyone who wants to live the dream, even for a moment, get your skates on.