Barrymore’s roller derby debut

Directed by Drew Barrymore, “Whip It ” is hip, girly fun.

PHOTO COURTESY VINCENT PICTURES

PHOTO COURTESY VINCENT PICTURES

Kara Nesvig

âÄúWhip ItâÄù STARRING: Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig RATED: PG-13 PLAYING AT: Area theaters No one thought that perennial flower child Drew Barrymore could ever add âÄúfilm directorâÄù to her résumé. When she announced sheâÄôd be taking the helm and directing âÄúWhip It,âÄù more than a few folks were skeptical despite her successful production company Flower Films. Actors are actors for a reason: TheyâÄôre good at being told what to do and how to do it. Would BarrymoreâÄôs foray be a vanity project, too heavy on her quirky, happy-go-lucky attitude? Not at all; âÄúWhip It!âÄù is a delicious trifle of empowering, adorable fun. Ellen PageâÄôs Bliss Cavendar is a 17-year-old Texas girl from small town Bodeen, whose letter carrier mother (Marcia Gay Harde n) moonlights as a pushy pageant mom. Reluctant rebel Bliss wants something more than an innocent white dress, shallow promises and a small-town diner job. Enter roller derby girls âÄî pierced and tattooed glamazons on wheels. Bliss joins up secretly, defying her straight-laced mom and her beer- and football-loving dad (Daniel Stern of âÄúHome AloneâÄù). After the initial bruising, she finds that she not only loves the derby but that sheâÄôs hell on wheels, too. Forget all your preconceived notions of Page as Jun o; thereâÄôs no Diab lo-driven snark here, only a relatable script adapted from the novel âÄúDerby GirlâÄù by Shauna Cross . BlissâÄôs struggle between doing what she loves (beating up chicks on roller skates in Dallas) and pleasing her mother is something all young girls have dealt with, and the filmâÄôs âÄúseriousâÄù scenes are honest rather than sappy like those in other coming-of-age films. HardenâÄôs character keeps the movie grounded in real life; she wants more for her daughter than she had, and pageants are the only thing she knows. Watching her grapple with BlissâÄôs choices is emotionally gripping. ItâÄôs the derby scenes âÄî and the ladies who bring them to life âÄî that give âÄúWhip ItâÄù its rollicking good-time feeling. Bad girl Iron Maven is the role Juliette Lewis was born to play; sheâÄôs a little bit nasty, a little bit nice and a whole lotta sassy, from bright blonde highlights to skintight leather pants. As BlissâÄôs confidante Malice in Wonderland, Kristen Wiig is warm and appealing âÄî a departure from the annoying caricature she often plays on âÄúSNL.âÄù Barrymore has only a small role as Smashley Simpson, who gets bashed and bruised up every time we see her. She is smart enough not to make herself the star of the show. The savvy eye will catch some sly product placement for BarrymoreâÄôs CoverGirl gig and a soundtrack selection from Barrymore ex Fabrizio MorettiâÄôs side gig Little Joy. Is this paid advertising or Barrymore injecting herself into her film? Also treading the ethical line is the prominent placement of BarrymoreâÄôs âÄúFever PitchâÄù costar Jimmy Fallon as derby emcee. This is, well, annoying, much like Fallon as an actor and neurotic late-night host. (Plus, heâÄôs married to BarrymoreâÄôs producing partner.) But âÄúWhip ItâÄù is a debut film to be proud of. BarrymoreâÄôs years in the industry have given her a knack with actors and a sense of what makes a smart popcorn flick.