"I am a lover and have not found my thing to love." -Sherwood Anderson, writer
This quote nicely sums up awkward teen Bliss Cavendar in the new film Whip It. Feeling a little lost and rapidly outgrowing her hometown of Bodeen, Texas, there is one thing she DOES know for certain: She doesn't belong in the small town beauty pageants in which her well-meaning but overbearing mother (Harden) makes her participate.
But things change the day she encounters a few girls from the roller derby league in nearby Austin. She convinces her best friend Pash (Ali Shawkat from Arrested Development) to attend a match and is instantly smitten. Afterwards, she shyly approaches some of the members of the Hurl Scouts team and tells them, "I just want to tell you all, you're my new heroes." When one of them replies, "Well, put on some skates, be your own hero," that's exactly what Bliss does. Soon she's learning the ropes of being a jammer, hiding massive bruises (and her new hobby) from her mother, and flirting with bad boy musician Oliver.
Her new life as "Babe Ruthless" isn't without its pitfalls, however. Bliss instantly clashes with the older and viciously talented Iron Maven (Lewis) from a rival team, who doesn't take kindly to the shiny new rookie. She also finds that first love can be as crushing as it is infatuating, and that sometimes our ill-conceived decisions can hurt the ones who love and support us most. Perhaps most importantly, Bliss starts to realize that while her new life more clearly defines who she is, there are elements of her old life that have merit and shouldn't be shed so quickly.
Simply put, Whip It is a lot of fun to watch. Ellen Page skeptics will be delighted to see her shed her slightly typecast Juno persona. The film also marks Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, and she makes her mark with a lot of good clean (and sometimes brutal) fun and flair. While the roller derby girls come from all walks of life, their love for the game brings them together, creating an imperfect yet unshakeable sisterhood. For Bliss, however, the best part is realizing that disappointments will come and go, but finding your thing to love is the most satisfying reward of all.
A word of warning: Ladies, you may find yourself pondering your own badass derby name by the end of the film. And fellas, you may find yourself digging (and fearing) these lovely ladies in fishnets and skates.