Dear Bliss, Maggie Mayhem, Smashley Simpson, Rosa Sparks, Bloody Holly and the rest of the Hurl Scouts,
You girls are my heroes, but wait Maggie, I’m sure you’d tell me “Be your own hero.” Trust me, I would if I could, but the last time I went roller skating, I think George H.W. Bush was president (yes, that long ago). While I’m sure that other people are probably referring to your performance as “a revelation,” “poignant,” and with the right amount of “hipster kitsch,” I can only call it what it actually is—*badass*. You girls are fearless in the arena, pivoting and swirling with the right amount of force, and punching noses and tripping skates when necessary. Though you didn’t win the league championship, number two is a great place to be.
Bliss (Ellen Page): It’s as if you’re a less precocious version of your alter ego in “Juno,” but instead of getting knocked up by a dweeb to find out what you’re made of, here you just need some Barbie roller skates. While you’re part of a femme-centric ensemble of players, you stand out. You began as a wallflower from some boondock town called Bodeen, Texas, slaving away as a waitress at the Oink Joint until you made a trip to the big city of Austin and discovered the world of roller derby. It must suck that your uptight mom Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden) is always dragging you to compete in these “Little Miss Sunshine”-esque pageants that would make me want to hurl.
As you transform into the petite yet tough “Babe Ruthless” on the track, you form a new family with Maggie Mayhem (Kristin Wiig) as your pseudo-mother figure, while leaving your BFF Pash (Alia Shawkat from “Arrested Development”) to rot at the Oink Joint alone. And what about that charmingly dirty beau of yours, Oliver (Landon Pigg)? Yeah, he was exciting for a while, till he left town for a month on his band’s tour, stealing your beloved Stryker T-shirt and leaving you high and dry. It was probably especially awkward when you told your mom that you gave him everything, but it did ensue in a heart-rending confrontation of repressed emotions.
Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) of the Holy Rollers delivers a memorable performance as the defending queen of the derby. Her poor sportsmanship and propensity for food fights make her the competitor to beat. Razor (Andrew Wilson—Luke and Owen’s big bro) may seem like a tough coach on the outside, but underneath his rough exterior, he just wants you girls to have fun. Johnny the derby announcer (Jimmy Fallon—his wife is Drew Barrymore’s producing partner) captures the essence of awkwardness with that necessarily corny narrative.
Overall, I must commend Drew Barrymore, coach of her very own team while also skating as Smashley Simpson. Although I was initially skeptical about her foraying into the world of directing, she has made a solid directorial debut. Barrymore’s filming of the roller-derby action was both silly and aggressive, making it the visceral experience that it was. It was not a typical sports film, as Barrymore’s focus was on the relationships between the women on the team.
All in all, it was a pleasure to share two hours with you women. You reminded me of the importance of female friendships and how meaningful they can be. Maybe I will brush up on my roller-skating skills or at least find something else at which I, too, can be my own hero. Thank you, Hurl Scouts.
Your loyal fan,