For a while I thought Roller Derby was a made-up sport, like Dodgeball, or Extreme Ping-Pong. Turns out there really is a competition where girls in short-shorts pummel the hell out of each while skooting round an indoor bike track on rollerskates. Who knew?! And the girls take on such rockin’ names too – my favourite: Smashley Simpson. All this – the rules, the myths, the bruises – is marvellously evoked in Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It!”
“Whip It” (so named after a killer move that’ll get the protagonist four valuable points on the scoreboard) stars the can-do-no-wrong Ellen Page as Bliss, a grunge-leaning teenager unhappily stuck in Bodeen, Texas, with a part-time job in the say-no-more Oink Joint, a postal mom (literally) who’s obsessed with beauty pageants and deportment, and a sweet-n-savvy best friend who’ll be on the first bus out after graduation. One fortuitous day Bliss stumbles upon Roller Derby and her life’s turned upside down. Sweet, funny and laden with friendship, it’s like a coming of age movie, but on wheels.
In spite of the strong Texas location, the production actually filmed in Detroit, no doubt taking advantage of Michigan tax breaks and the fact that warehouse space can be bought for a dollar an acre now there’s a recession. To support the all-star cast of grrrrl-power, (Kirsten Wiig, Zoe Bell, Eve – awesome!), real roller girls were selected from local Michigan teams such as The Detroit Derby Girls, and The Grand Raggidy Roller Girls.