Whip It

Whip It Information

Whip It is a 2009 comedy-drama film written by Shauna Cross, based on Cross's novel Derby Girl. The film is directed and co-produced by Drew Barrymore in her directorial debut. It stars Ellen Page as a teenager from a small town who joins a roller derby team.

The film received generally positive reviews from critics but was a disappointment commercially.


Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a misfit in the small town of Bodeen, Texas, with no sense of direction in her life. Her mother, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), a former beauty queen, pushes her to enter beauty pageants despite her lack of interest. Bliss and her best friend, Pash (Alia Shawkat), dream of escaping. Pash plans to attend an Ivy League school in a big city, but Bliss is uncertain as to what she wants for her future. During a shopping trip to Austin with her mother, Bliss encounters three roller derby team members. Intrigued, she and Pash attend a roller derby bout under the pretense of going to a football game, where they see the Holy Rollers defeat the Hurl Scouts, a perennially unsuccessful derby team. Bliss tells the Hurl Scouts that they are "her new heroes" and is suddenly drawn to the idea of being a roller derby skater herself when one of the Hurl Scouts, Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) replies, "Well, put some skates on. Be your own hero."

Returning to Austin, Bliss lies about her age and tries out for the Hurl Scouts, discovering her natural skating abilities in the process. After realizing she needs to be ruthless in roller derby, Bliss sees she needs to take charge in other aspects of her life, revealed through various subplots. One involves Bliss' love interest, a lanky young rock guitarist and singer named Oliver (Landon Pigg) whom she meets via her exposure to roller derby. They enjoy a whirlwhind romance and an underwater lovemaking session before Oliver leaves for a tour, taking a T-shirt Bliss gave him to remember her by. She later finds a picture of him at a gig with another girl, who is wearing her t-shirt. She breaks up with him following his return, although he vehemently denies that anything happened.

Another sub-plot examines Bliss' relationship with her parents, a loving but controlling mother and an amiable but clueless father (Daniel Stern) who seldom opposes his wife's parental decisions. Although, eventually, Bliss' father convinces her mother to let Bliss out of a pageant (which is at the same time as the championship roller derby game) and convinces the Hurl Scouts to come get Bliss for the bout. Various other sub-plots include her relationship with Pash, and confrontations with a stuck up snob at school. Pash is fine with Bliss' new path, until she gets arrested with an open container of beer while she is waiting for Bliss, who has left to go find Oliver. Eventually, Pash gets together with their manager and forgives Bliss. The movie ends with the Hurl Scouts narrowly losing the championship match and everyone finally getting along; the team chants "We're number two!" which was the same thing they chanted when they lost their first match.


(in order of appearance)


Screenwriter Shauna Cross adapted her 2007 young-adult novel Derby Girl for the screen and pitched the script to different production companies while simultaneously pitching its source material to various publishers. Once Barrymore got involved, she and Cross worked for months on script revisions, with Barrymore pushing her to "avoid her story's tidier prospects, to make things 'more raw and open ended.'"

The film project was initially to be handled by Warner Independent Pictures, but Mandate Pictures took over after it was put into a turnaround. Production began summer 2008 in Michigan; principal photography began on July 26, taking place in and around Detroit, Saline, Ypsilanti, Michigan and Birch Run. Real roller girls were selected from local Michigan teams such as the Detroit Derby Girls, and the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. Several scenes were also shot in Austin, Texas. Some scenes were also shot in Hamtramck, Michigan at Hamtramck High School.

Whip It was produced by Barry Mendel and Drew Barrymore; a co-production between Mandate Pictures and Barrymore's Flower Films. The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.


Critical response

Critical reception for Whip It was generally positive; based on 176 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 85%, with an average score of 7.1/10. Metacritic calculated an average score of 68, based on 31 reviews.

A. O. Scott called the film "predictable", but said "You might, nonetheless, want to see this movie, even "? or maybe especially "? if you have seen Billy Elliot or Bend It Like Beckham. Familiarity is not always a bad thing, and if the script, by Shauna Cross, piles sports movie and coming-of-age touchstones into a veritable cairn of clichés, the cast shows enough agility and conviction to make them seem almost fresh." Roger Ebert said it's a "coming-together of two free spirits, Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page, and while it may not reflect the kind of female empowerment Gloria Steinem had in mind, it has guts, charm, and a black-and-blue sweetness." According to The Miami Herald, "Whip It is completely predictable from the first frame. It also is ridiculously, utterly entertaining. Drew Barrymore's smashing directorial debut harkens back to an era in which Hollywood studio pictures could still move and enthrall the audience while plying in hoary cliches."

Box office

Whip It was a financial disappointment. Initial studio estimates showed Whip It in a tie for #6 in its opening weekend, tying with the widely-released Capitalism: A Love Story, and it wound up taking sixth place with $4,650,812 The film grossed $13,043,363 in North America. It grossed $3,589,672 in foreign movie sales, for a grand total of $16,633,035 world wide. Production cost of the film was $15 million.


Drew Barrymore was nominated for a Bronze Horse at the Stockholm Film Festival.


The world premiere of the film was held at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. The majority of the film's main cast attended the premiere. As part of the festivities, members of local league Toronto Roller Derby held an exhibition bout at Yonge Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. Toronto Roller Derby skaters, like those in other cities with major roller derby leagues, also helped promote the film in advance of the screening by wearing costumes from the film and skating around town and performing stunts while handing out flyers and giveaway items. Toronto Roller Derby credits their luck in being able to skate at the festival for helping expand their fanbase as well as their skater rosters.


The film has a 58-song playlist, with a wide range of styles and genres. Nineteen tracks appear on the CD of the soundtrack, with additional tracks at various MP3 stores. According to Allmusic, "The disc is a blend of familiar old standbys (including a glittering remix of the Chordettes' "Lollipop") and indie acts (among them Barrymore's ex-boyfriend Fabrizio Moretti's band Little Joy), achieving the kind of safely edgy balance that embodies the Fox Searchlight aesthetic (that is, it's quirky enough to appeal to the cool kids, but never strays too far from the mainstream)."

Track listing
  1. Tilly and the Wall " "Pot Kettle Black"
  2. Ramones " "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"
  3. Cut Chemist featuring Hymnal " "What's the Altitude"
  4. The Breeders " "Bang On"
  5. The Raveonettes " "Dead Sound"
  6. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah " "Blue Turning Grey"
  7. Jens Lekman " "Your Arms Around Me"
  8. Gotye " "Learnalilgivinanlovin"
  9. Peaches " "Boys Wanna Be Her"
  10. Dolly Parton " "Jolene"
  11. 38 Special " "Caught Up in You"
  12. Har Mar Superstar featuring Adam Green " "Never My Love"
  13. Goose " "Black Gloves"
  14. The Ettes " "Crown of Age"
  15. Landon Pigg featuring Turbo Fruits " "High Times"
  16. Little Joy " "Unattainable"
  17. The Chordettes " "Lollipop (Squeak E. Clean & Desert Eagles remix)"
  18. The Go! Team " "Doing it Right"
  19. Apollo Sunshine " "Breeze"
  20. Turbo Fruits " "Fun Dream Love Dream" (Amazon MP3 version version track)
  21. Young MC " "Know How" (iTunes version bonus track)
  22. The Section Quartet " "The Road to Austin" (iTunes version bonus track)
22. Radiohead - "No Surprises"

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