Heroes of the Zeroes: Whip It
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Drumming, painting, rescuing bunnies — the sheer joy any hobby makes you feel can be overwhelming. They’re not jobs, but passionately and positively internalizing them as a calling can define our work, love, friendships and self-image.
An intensely sweet infusion of that rousing spirit transformed 2009’s roller-derby film “Whip It” — Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut — into an endorsement of the importance of seizing the now early, whatever “the now” might be.
Twee and tough, “Whip It” elbows aside sports-movie clichés with thoughtful intelligence, an emphasis on self-reliance and all-too-rare cinematic portrayals of strong women.
Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a small-town Texan enamored by the big-city lure of roller-derby — a sport of self-assured, seriously fit women with wild stage names (Smashley Simpson, Rosa Sparks, Eva Destruction).
She sees an escape from a dead-end life and the teen pageant circuit, into which her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) has forced her.
Bliss picks up bruises, scrapes and wickedly toned muscles, but also her own sexuality, the wide-open spontaneity of her post-high school life and, eventually, an understanding for the upheaval her parents have endured.
Page, Harden and Daniel Stern (as Bliss’s father) share a great confrontational scene. They’re called ropes because sometimes you’ve got to be smashed against them to know from what they’re protecting you.
Plus, Barrymore shows an atmospheric flair for the rowdy rink, growing pains and, not surprisingly, daffy comedy. As Jimmy Fallon’s character says, indirectly commenting on “Whip It’s” totality, you will enjoy the everloving shit out of it.