Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It” is as shiny as a brand new rollerskate; a feisty coming of age flick, subtitled “Be Your Own Hero”, it should be forcefed to every Twilight fan–and their mothers.
It’s the story of Bliss (played by Ellen “Juno” Page), a shy, sulky misfit who rebels against her mother’s “psychotic idea of 50s womanhood” (aka donning $800 peachy dresses to compete in beauty pageants) by trying out for the local roller derby team. She wins them over with her speedy skating, and as “Babe Ruthless”, helps dig them out of their losing streak while learning a lot about friendship, family, love and stuff along the way.
Page’s performance is warm-hearted and genuine: when she falls for a hot rock singer boy her eyes practically melt off her face, and her combative relationship with her mum is engrossing and true. Alia Shawkat, playing BFF Pash, is gorgeous, but her character a little underwritten, and she has an unconvincing love interest foisted on her. Whereas the tattoeoed, spiky derby girls are a cartoonish embodiment of grrl power- I only wish I’d met a troupe during my own years of teenage loserdom.
The general moral of hoes before bros is as conspicuous as a freshly inked tattoo, and its packed with every clichéd trope of the sports movie genre, from a training montage, to shots of equal digits on the scoreboard, to bitter rivals learning bonhomie on the pitch, or rather, rink.
But then rollerderby is not an ordinary sport, thank god. There’s no sign of Kevin Costner or a baseball square, triangle, whatever. Rollerderby is a) fast and violent and b) played by girls. The match scenes are thrillingly fast and the teams’ notoriously racy gear provides punk eye candy. I left the cinema itching to dig out my old rollerskates and fishnets and do a lap of Leicester Square– elbowing a few tourists on my way.
“Whip It” is released in the UK on 7th April.