Film / Film with Female Lead / Review

Whip It (2009)

“What has gotten in to you?”

“Just defective, I guess”

Unhappy with her life, “alternative” young woman Bliss (Ellen Page) lives involuntarily in loneliness. Her self-described “only friend”, Pash, is a hilarious and equally misfit young woman, while Bliss’ mother is the stock Southern housewife who loves nothing more than reliving her own glory days as pageant queen and forcing her daughter to parade in these same contests.

Living in a small town, Bliss and Pash attempt to make life as interesting for themselves as possible, and dream of escaping their dreary existence. These oddball methods of differentiation include dying Bliss’ hair blue minutes before her next pageant appearance and buying shoes from a bong shop.

In sweeps Bliss’ future – three of the coolest, most hair-whooshing women you could hope to meet in a small town. They’re distributing flyers for a sport called roller derby, which hasn’t taken off very well over here in London, UK, but still. They all seem very cool.

Mesmerised by the carefree, tattoo-clad women that seem to make laughter follow them everywhere they go, Bliss seems to have fallen in love with them and the idea of what they’re promoting. Sneaking off to a game, Bliss and Pash taste teenage life for the first time, and are amazed by what they experience (mostly violence, but hey).

Smashley Simpson, Rosa Sparks and Bloody Holly of the team Hurl Scouts – some of the aliases of the fine women that greet Bliss, introduce the audience to the roller derby sport and its rules. Also established for us is the rivalry between the Hurl Scouts (the good guys – or girls) and The (naughty, not evil) Holy Rollers, featuring the fantastic Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven.

 Not for one for sports films, I was drawn to this particular film because of the all-female lead cast, and – with an emphasis on Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig – I was really looking forward to seeing what would happen if you mixed 10 of the most kick-ass women in Hollywood together in an arena.

“Hey. What’s your Roller Derby name?”

“Pocket Rocket. What’s yours?”

“Jabba the Slut.”

What I love most about Whip It is the unsentimental team-spirit between the women; you can be tough and soft at the same time. If there’s any sign of cheese, it won’t be the conventional kind – it’ll most likely be the kind with barbed wire attached to it. But I digress.


  • Funny – as always with indie comedies like this – in the most subtle way. I often laugh at moments whilst everyone throws tumbleweed at me. *See the scene where Bliss attempts to make Pash vomit the way a good friend should, and separately, an appropriately placed cat meow
  • Juliette Lewis is, as ever, a pro, which reminds me to commend Andrew Wilson for his hilarious input as the Hurl Scouts’ coach
  • Interesting focus on a lesser-known sport
  • An anti-emphasis on romantic love


  • Slightly confusing and fast-paced explanation of the rules but still, better than no explanation at all

Final Verdict


Whip It is a Karate Kid-esque sports film about finding your identity and making friends along the way (when you’re not beating them to a pulp). The conflict that arises when torn between what you want to do and what you’re expected to do is relayed once again in this film, with mediocre results. I guarantee some laughs from this overall cute film, though.


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