There are few things we love more than when one of our Required Viewing selections crops up at a theatre near us. Such was the case when Whip It got the big screen treatment from our beloved Alamo Drafthouse. For the uninitiated, Whip It is Drew Barrymore’s love letter to coming-of-age stories in a rebellious roller derby package, and Annemarie had never had the joy. We corrected that, and now we’re going to talk about it. And probably daydream about becoming derby girls for at least the next two months.
AM, you know the drill, start us off, and don’t skimp on the details about how delightful Whip It is.
A: Ahhh buffalo cauliflower, how I love thee. But this isn’t about our delightful Alamo movie snack, this is about ROLLER DERBY. Which I’ve never actually seen in person but would be totally down to view. It’s equal speed skating, rugby, and nightclub act, and as seen through Barrymore’s eyes, it’s great colorful elbow-to-the-face fun.
To recap a bit, Ellen Page plays Bliss, our young heroine, the one doing the growing up and coming of age. She’s perhaps the least likely southern beauty queen since Rory Gilmore had her debutant debut, but her belle of a mom (I love Marcia Gay Harden so so much here) is doing some vicarious living through her daughter. Enter roller derby, and Bliss’ world is transformed (in secret, of course, because of movie logic).
Other things I loved: Daniel Stern as Bliss’ dad and his secret solo football van beer parties, and Juliette Lewis, like Brooke said I would. She’s usually just a bit on the far side of crazy for me, but as a middle-aged roller derby queen who had to wait until she was 31 to find a thing she was awesome at, she’s fantastic.
Brooke, tell me what I might have missed, what do you love here, and why?
B: I love everything you listed here (especially Juliette as Iron Maven and Daniel Stern), and so many other things besides. I love Alia Shawkat as the best friend who supports Bliss but doesn’t hesitate to call her out, and I especially love Kristin Wiig and Drew Barrymore as Bliss’ derby family. Drew is wild and irreverent where Kristin is the cool aunt. It all just works. I also love that the third Wilson brother is in this movie as the coach of our underdog derby team. The whole affair falls into place in such a way that it’s a perfect cacophony of music and color, rebellion and emerging maturity. Give me a movie that involves a massive, public food fight AND a sitting-in-front-of-the-fridge-eating-casserole-while-crying confession to mom about swiping the V-card with the wrong boy and it’s like catnip for me.
I’m very, very glad you see the appeal of Juliette here, and even more glad you would go to IRL derby, it’s a blast. And you know I have to ask, what would your derby name be? And what was your favorite Texas expression from Bliss’ parents? Because they had some good ones!
A: Shark Attack Girl is my derby name, is it not? I cannot think of something more apt, even though it’s not a pun. Tell me, what would yours be? Something that combines your love of HP with your love of British things, perhaps? Tell me more about the derby you went to, what were some standouts?
I have to confess, I don’t recall the standout Texan expressions from this film! I was perhaps too busy thinking about derby names and the comebacks from Bliss and Pash? Brooke, fill me in on your fave. I will say, I do quite enjoy “We need better villains” from Bliss, because what’s the fun of having the lame ones we’ve got?
Now, onto more questions. Have you ever had to live a secret life akin to Bliss’? I am too much of a square to be able to lie to my parents about my whereabouts, but then again my extracurriculars included swim team and marching band. Nothing to hide, there. Brooke, how about you? Also: we’ve discussed our first jobs ever, but now let’s discuss worst / wackiest jobs ever.
B: After no small amount of consideration, I’ve landed on what should have been my very first thought. I am Hermione Danger. A shark-related name is extremely on brand for you, I should have known what was on the horizon when I asked. As for the standout names at the bouts I’ve attended, I couldn’t tell you any of them. Not because they weren’t great, but because I am an old and it was a long time ago. I do thoroughly enjoy “we need better villains” and Kristin Wiig’s great advice of “be your own hero,” but I’ve always loved the Texan flair baked into this picture. From Daniel Stern’s dadism of “that dog ain’t gonna hunt,” to Bliss and Pash transforming “Jolene” into “Bodeen” there are little bits of local flavor that make Whip It feel alive and I love that.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly wacky job, but I did have a brief stint at a Bath and Body Works where I was asked to apply lotion to customer’s hands for them, just as a standard practice. It was a HARD PASS on that. And frankly, if anyone ever did that to me, I would turn around and walk right out the door. Okay, AM. Give us yours. And then let’s talk about the two wildly different worlds of fashion in this movie. I’m going to call them derby girl chic and Texas pageant contestant.
A: Yeah, I’ve also never had a truly wacky job, just the assortment of retail and light food industry (I worked at a smoothie shop in the gym but there was no true cooking involved). My worst job was probably my first job, at a local video store. It was really only the worst because as a senior in high school, I had no time between school, marching band, work, and friends and family, and you know, being a kid. Also: the only job in which I had to clean a toilet, for which I’m eternally grateful.
My sister did have an extremely wacky job interview with a (pretty) famous movie director that would have entailed working in this director’s basement and transferring old home movies and other assorted videotapes onto a hard drive. Assistants in Hollywood often are required to do random things, but I for one was glad that she didn’t have to sit in Penny Marshall’s basement all day.
And to go back to the derby names, in the process of you deciding yours, mine was improved exponentially by said sister, and I present my new derby name: Snark Attack. It’s PERFECT.
Really, the two fashion worlds can be broken into the classic good girl vs bad girl. Good girls curl their hair and wear pink and always, always have their face done. Bad girls wear torn stockings and baggy men’s shirts and any makeup they wear is probably black. It might have glitter, but it’ll def be dark. Obviously, the tropes are bullshit, but the women in Whip It adhere pretty closely to these guidelines, only in reverse. The good girl look is forced and inauthentic, worn by mean, petty girls. The bad girl look is full of life and dazzle and personality for our heroines, the derby girls.
What are your thoughts on the fashion choices? I know which side you’d fall on IRL, but do you think I can get away with my derby getup being an equal mashup of shark and princess fashion?
B: I 100% think you could take your Disney Princess vibes (not sorry, you are the friend I would most expect to find singing with a chorus of birds) and give them a bit of riot grrrl attitude to transform into Snark Attack. I know your Snark to be alive and well and a bit of dark glitter and artistically torn clothing would complete the rock n’ roll look your sometimes pink hair hints at. Naturally, your jewelry would all be shark-themed, and you might wear a fin on special occasions.
Also, I’m going to assume based on your previous statement that you believe I could/on occasion do rock that derby girl look, and I am delighted you think so.
But enough talk, let’s strap on some skates and be our own heroes.
We’re sticking in the Brooke-lane next time because AM was happy to forego her pick for a week in the name of a Tom Hardy picture she hadn’t seen. We’ll be joining Tom and Shia LeBoeuf for that little-seen bootlegger romp, Lawless.
Main image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
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