‘Whip It’ cracks the over-used disturbed youth mold in indie teen movies


To some kids, teenage rebellion consists of listening to alt-music, staying out an hour past curfew and falling in love with something other than schoolwork. However, for Ellen Page’s character, Bliss Cavendar, in her new movie “Whip It,” her ideal of rebellion consists of sneaking out the house weekly to drive roughly 90 miles away from home just to get her body and emotions bruised by women twice her age and size.

Bliss’s mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), is the power figure of the family, and as a former teen beauty queen, she tries to raise her children in “a respectable Christian household”. Papa Earl (Daniel Stern) is a repairman of sorts, who cowers behind his wife when it comes to parenting and arguments. Bliss’ little sister, Shania, slips quietly by turmoil by winning the same huge pageant trophies her mother did. On the other hand, Page’s character is caught hopelessly searching to establish an identity different from her mother by doing things that garner her mother’s disapproval such as dying her hair blue. Bliss is stuck in a small town stuck in the middle of other people’s dreams and happiness, without a way of escaping to form a happy ending of her own.

As the movie unfolds, the main characters are all abruptly forced to deal with reality and instead of making small adjustments, Bliss and company seem to take on the movie’s catch phrase of “be your own hero.” One night Bliss and her friend make a Friday-night pilgrimage to Austin to catch some roller derby. Bliss falls in love with the sport and decides to try out for an open spot on the team. Her immense passion to get bruised and dirty doing something she loves is what drives the characters to take action and create change in their lives. Surprisingly, a majority of the movie’s depth is provided by the girls of The Hurl Scouts, the team of supposed tattooed miscreants, where she learns some of her most important life lessons from. Once on the team, Bliss gets a glimpse past the rockstar carefree mentality the league exudes and sees into the fun-loving sisterhood it really is.

“At least here [in Jacksonville] we’re not all about violence and flash,” Jacksonville Rollergirls, the area’s local roller derby association, Media Contact Sharon Bell said. “We are all really friends and just trying our best to promote [the] sport in a positive way.”

Another key addition to the cast is musical artist Landon Pigg, who plays Bliss’s love interest Oliver, the lead singer of the fictional band Turbo Fruits. Pigg plays the role of a young up-and-coming musician and even contributes to the soundtrack. The soundtrack was hand-picked by Drew Barrymore, the film’s director, and is a compilation of songs she loves and that helped contribute to the direction of the movie. With tracks from the Ramones, Dolly Parton and The Go! Team, the soundtrack is just as vast and varied as one expects Bliss’s CD collection to be.

Just like its soundtrack, Whip It is a collection of random characters, ideas and moments that work in tandem to paint a bigger picture. Unlike their predecessors, Bliss and her supporting characters are brought together and uplifted by their kinks and quirkiness and use their differences the help each other understand more about life and themselves.