For a small-town girl, one trip to the city can be a life-changer. That's what happens when 17-year-old Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) leaves little Bodeen, Texas, for a shopping trip to Austin. When a gaggle of tattooed Roller Derby chicks comes rumbling into a trendy clothing store, Bliss' awestruck face says it all: There's no going back home now.

"Whip It" may be by and about women, but it isn't exclusively for them. The cast is mostly female, the first-time director is Drew Barrymore, and the screenplay comes from Shauna Cross, based on her novel. But the teenage themes are universal: breaking from your parents, discovering yourself and following your bliss.

Bliss follows hers, albeit in secret. At home, she's a reluctant beauty queen molded by her strong-willed mother, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden). But in Austin, she ditches her tiara for skates and becomes Babe Ruthless, part of the ragtag Hurl Scouts. Thanks to Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), Smashley Simpson (Barrymore) and a grizzled arch-nemesis called Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis, pitchperfect), Bliss learns how to throw, and bend, an elbow.

Barrymore directs with breezy confidence and obvious affection for her actors, and for the material. Page, as Bliss, isn't stretching much beyond her "Juno" role, but she has several moving scenes opposite Harden, who makes a refreshingly human parental unit. Even Bliss' obligatory romance with a skinny rocker (Landon Pigg, an actual skinny rocker) feels convincing.

For once, boys are not the point, as you might have guessed from the film's title. It's a nod to the classic Roller Derby move in which one girl takes another by the arm and helps her get ahead.

  

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Drew Barrymore was the wheel deal

'Whip It" is based on the novel by former skater Shauna Cross, but director Drew Barrymore spent close to a year holed up with Cross, finessing the author'soriginal script, making the material less broad and more personal. Barrymore came prepared for the 10-week shoot with a script in which every page was accompanied by the image she intended to create.

"I was just very clear about the movie I wanted to make." During preproduction, she also joined the cast for a month at Roller Derby boot camp. (Ellen Page, who's supposed to be the fastest on the team, trained for three months.)

Barrymore, who co-stars as Derby Girl Smashley Simpson, admits it would have been easier to just concentrate on directing, but: "I wanted to be in the trenches with the girls, not a sideline dictator and be like, "Yeah, yeah, you go ahead and do that. I know it's terrifying, but you'll be fine.' I wanted to know exactly what they were going through."

- Los Angeles Times