Ellen Page’s new movie, Whip It, is a lot like her previous film, Juno: young girl trying to find her way in a confusing world, to honor her emerging sexuality, and to hold onto old relationships while forging new ones. Not to mention the need for some new life skills if she’s to survive in today’s world.
Bliss Cavender lies about her age to get on the Hurl Scouts roller derby team. Suddenly she’s in a world of fast-moving, trash-talking, tough-as-nails skaters, women with names like Bloody Holly and Eva Destruction. “Bliss” becomes “Babe Ruthless,” and the movie takes off.
Marcia Gay Harden plays the mother, and she’s wonderful. The beauty queen element makes you think of JonBenet Ramsey, but this mother is nothing like Patsy Ramsey. The hunk Oliver is played by an actor with the unfortunate name of Landon Pigg. Drew Barrymore directed the film and is one of the roller derbyists.
What I loved about the movie is that it’s so affirming of young people. When Bliss confides to her mother the “terrible” thing she’s done, her mother replies, “It’s a lot to process.” She does not condemn, chastise, or run from the room. It reminds me of a scene in Stoner, a novel by John Williams. The professor’s daughter confesses to her father that she’s pregnant. “You aren’t to worry,” he says. Such love. Such acceptance. Such mutual respect.
Parents, take your daughters to see this movie. Britney, my fifteen-year-old niece, grab your mom and drag her to the theater. Make her sit through the scenes she’ll find uncomfortable. Promise her it will all turn out okay, she’s done a good job and all that training has not been for nothing. Despite the beauty pageants and the bad advice, Bliss’s mom has done a great job.
The screenplay was written by Shauna Cross who also wrote the young adult novel on which the movie is based, Derby Girl. I don’t normally read young adult fiction, but this script is so perfect, the film so well done, I may have to make an exception.