Film / Whip It

2009 movie directed by Drew Barrymore, adapted from writer Shauna "Maggie Mayhem" Cross' 2007 novel Derby Girl.

The film stars Ellen Page as a 17-year old reluctant beauty pageant contestant named Bliss Cavendar in Bodeen, Texas, who discovers and falls in love with the Austin Roller Derby circuit. She goes to roller derby tryouts and gets selected for the Hurl Scouts, the worst team in the league. But with Bliss's amazing speed and coach Razor's playbook, they might just be able to challenge the Holy Rollers, the top team in the league, and maybe even win the championship.

Not to be confused with the song of the same name.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Quite a few characters who were antagonistic or borderline-antagonistic in the novel had the jerkass volume turned way, way down in the movie, particularly Brooke Cavendar.
  • AM/FM Characterization: Razor pulls up playing "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips in his car's stereo. Bliss spends the middle part of the film playing and listening to the music of her crush's band (played by Landon Pigg, the actual musician cast in the role of Oliver). Expanded in the book; a love of indie music is one of the marks of Bliss' identity.
  • Artistic License Geography: The film supposedly takes place in the Austin, Texas area in late-October/early-November, yet the trees are still green and no one is seen dressing warmly (Bliss even takes off her shirt while outside in the morning air, and suffers no visible discomfort).
    • And the funny part? It actually was partially filmed in the Austin area—just not around the time of year that the plot is set.
    • Reality Is Unrealistic: Austin usually is still fairly warm in late October/early November, and the leaves usually don't start changing color or falling until Thanksgiving or so. That said, just because it's warm doesn't mean people in Austin don't bundle up. At least in Houston, everyone is bundled up once it's below 75.
  • Artistic License Sports: A subtle one: All the members of the Hurl Scouts are wearing the same skate - the Riedell 265 Wicked. While the Wicked is a popular skate for roller derby, the nature of roller derby as a do-it-yourself amateur sport means that skaters' equipment is entirely left up to personal choice and the skater's budget, and a derby team will typically have a mix of skates from varying manufacturers.
  • Auto Erotica / Don't Come A-Knockin': Subverted. Bliss sees her dad's van rocking, and hears him yelling "YES! YES!", but it turns out he's watching a really exciting football game on a small TV in the van.
  • Badass Beard: Razor.
  • Beauty Contest: Bliss's mother was a contestant when she was younger and makes both Bliss and her younger sister Shania compete.
  • Big Game: The championship match at the end.
  • Billy Elliot Plot: Inverted. Bliss wants to do roller derby, but her mother wants her to participate in beauty pageants.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Corbi in both the novel and the movie.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bliss breaks up with her cheating boyfriend, and then loses the last jam of the game to Iron Maven, but she also finally wins Maven's respect on the track and reconciles with her family.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Without the Bluebonnet factory, this town wouldn't exist." It's a reference to Blue Bell Creameries, an ice cream manufacturer based in Brenham, Texas.note 
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Smashley Simpson.
  • Bumbling Dad: Mr. Cavendar
  • California Doubling: Aside from a few scenes filmed in Austin, the majority of the movie features Michigan doubling for East Central Texas.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Johnny Rocket.
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Bluebonnet Ball is the very same evening as the championship roller derby match. In the novel this was arranged by the fire-marshal bust seen in the movie causing the date of the championship to be moved by a week.
  • Cool Mom: Maggie Mayhem.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: When her mother sees a roller derby bruise, Bliss says that she "fell at work."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Pash and Razor.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas
  • Food Fight: Iron Maven flicks a french fry at Bliss. Bliss retaliates with some banana creme pie. Maven dumps a chocolate milkshake on Bliss' head. It escalates from there.
  • Friendly Enemy: Rival captains Eva Destruction and Iron Maven are relatively friendly to their opponents, and it seems a lot of the roller derby teams hang out together after the games. Even when they get into a food fight, they're laughing their asses off the entire time.
    • This is Truth in Television. Most roller derby leagues train as a league and friendships stay constant even as teams shuffle their lineups. Few if any rollergirls are only friends with their teammates, and one's derby wife can be on a different team or in a different league entirely.
  • From Bad to Worse: Pash gets arrested for underage drinking. Bliss' parents find out the truth about her roller derby double life and take away her skates. Pash stops speaking to Bliss. Maven blackmails Bliss into quitting roller derby due to Bliss being underage. And to top all that off, Bliss discovers that Oliver has cheated on her and has given away her Stryper t-shirt to a groupie.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Both zig-zagged and justified. At the beginning of the movie, Bliss wears contact lenses to beauty pageants and debutante balls (at her mother's behest), then switches to glasses when in street clothes. Later, when Bliss joins the roller derby team, she switches to contacts full time.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Oink Joint. Home of the Squealer.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Johnny Rocket and Razor having a pitifully bad dance-off at the hot tub party.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Over the first half of the end credits.
  • Informed Ability: Pash is apparently smart enough to get into some fairly prestigious colleges, but we never see anything to indicate this.
    • She does mention earlier in the film that she has straight A's, which keeps her parents happy enough to not be watching too hard for their Austin excursions.
    • Completely averted with Ellen Page's portrayal of Bliss - Page actually got quite good at roller derby during the filming of the movie.
  • Ivy League for Everyone
  • Jumped at the Call: Bliss is quite willing to go the extra mile to achieve her goals.
  • Large Ham: "Hot Tub" Johnny Rocket, the announcer at the roller derby track.
  • Male Gaze: Quite a bit of it at that.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: "Let's go apeshit."
  • My Beloved Smother: Take a guess.
  • Not So Different: While her ambitions (athletics vs. beauty) are different from her mother's, Bliss has inherited more of her mother's drive than her father's easygoing, conflict-averse nature.
  • Pet the Dog: Bliss gives her custom-made dress to Amber for the Bluebonnet Ball when she leaves for the championship match.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Bliss all the way, although what's most remarkable about her is her speed, not her strength—she gets knocked down plenty.
  • Primal Scene: Bliss makes Pash imagine one of these in order to induce vomiting.
    Bliss: Pash, have you ever thought...about your parents making love? Your dad's naked body...
    Pash: WHAT?
    Pash: [vomits]
  • Punny Name: Seems to be a staple for the roller derby girls. You have Babe Ruthless, Rosa Sparks, Smashley Simpson, Iron Maven, and Eva Destruction.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Hurl Scouts. Implied to be the case with the other derby teams, as well.
    • Also Truth in Television: A roller derby team can have on it a stay-at-home mom, a banking vice-president, a physicist and many, many other kinds of women who are bound together by their common interest in the sport.
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: Bliss, at age 17, claims to be 22 years old.
  • Refusal of the Call: After seeing the Hurl Scouts play the Holy Rollers at the exhibition match, Bliss suggests to Pash that they both try out for roller derby. Pash doesn't want to, and spends the majority of the movie cheering on Bliss from the audience.
  • Roller Derby
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Bliss and Pash. Bliss is very new to the sport and so likely has not found someone she feels strongly enough about to be her derby wife, her team act more as surrogate mothers to their very young teammate.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Oliver acts like the very definition of this trope, since his scenes mainly consist of him digging Bliss, and Bliss digging him right back. The trope is deconstructed a bit, however, as he only acts this way in order to get into Bliss' pants. And she falls for it.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Played straight with Razor, but subverted with the rest of the Hurl Scouts (that is, until Razor gives another team one of his plays—then the Hurl Scouts start getting their act together).
    • Subverted again at the end, when the Hurl Scouts—Razor included—celebrate the fact that, holy crap, they actually jumped all the way from last place to the finals.
  • Shotgun Wedding:
    Earl Cavendar: I like smart girls, that's why I married your momma. Well, that, and I knocked her up.
  • Shout-Out: After Bliss and Oliver's Night Out, Bliss is walking back up to her house, wearing Oliver's Green Jacket, a Black Skirt, and Black Boots (with Long-ish Brown Hair). See?
  • Shown Their Work: At several times during the shown matches, a jammer is shown waving their arms up and down by repeatedly placing their hands on their hips. This is never explained within the film, but is the means by which a lead jammer can end a jam and prevent any further scoring.
  • Status Quo Is God: Although they eventually make to the finals, they still lose despite giving it their best, but, "there's always next year!"...
  • Team Mom: Maggie Mayhem.
  • That Poor Cat: A cat yowls as Pash and Bliss leave the roller derby.
  • Tights Under Shorts: This is a staple of Roller Derby "Boutfits." (in the film and in real life: All WFTDA Division 1 and most Division 2 leagues now use uniform tops, but permit skaters wide latitude in deciding what they wear from the waist down)
  • Time Marches On: You can make a drinking game of the rules of roller derby that have changed between the 2007 setting of the film and the present day, and get quite sloshed by the end of it.
  • Tomboy: All of the derby ladies, though Maggie and Eva seem to have a Girly Streak.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows that Bliss' parents eventually discover her roller derby career, and two seconds later it spoils their eventual reconciliation.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Bliss and Oliver.
    • Eva Destruction and Rosa Sparks also get cuddly in a hot tub in one scene.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted; actually, the Hurl Scouts lose all the time until they decide to get serious after the Fight Attendants run one of Razor's plays, leaving them all on the floor.
  • Worthy Opponent: By the end of the movie, Iron Maven sees Bliss this way.