Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Daniel Stern
Maggie Mayhem: Just because you’ve found a new family, doesn’t mean you throw the old one away.
Bliss (Page) is a 17 year old beauty pageant regular living in a small town outside of Austin, Texas. She and her best friend Pash (Shawkat) dream of bigger and better things, but feel pretty stuck in where, and who, they are. When Bliss discovers the world of Roller Derby, she finds something she’s good at and loves. She just has to make sure her parents don’t find out she’s doing it and that the roller derby league doesn’t find out she’s only 17.
Since I’m such a big fan of using other movies to describe the themes and general feel of a movie, I’ll do that with this one. It’s like if you put Hoosiers and Coyote Ugly into a blender, then poured the resulting combination over Days of Thunder. How’s that?
This is an entertaining movie, despite its flaws, mostly due to the fun roller derby scenes. The performances by Page, Shawkat, Stern, and Harden are all good, but those scenes are mostly standard stuff. Disapproving mom, lovable lazy dad, neglected best friend…it’s all been done before, but like I said, the performances make it watchable. However, I was cringing a bit at the romantic scenes between Bliss and Oliver (Landon Pigg). Watching her get all goo goo eyed over him seemed to undermine the themes of Bliss breaking out on her own and toughening up. That story line did have a pretty satisfying conclusion, though. As did most of the story lines. They were somewhat unexpected conclusions, which I suppose is what made them more enjoyable.
This was Drew Barrymore’s first major directing gig, and it showed a little here and there. Though, mainly it was the editing I had a few problems with. Some scenes went on when it seemed they should be over, and the characters were just wandering off camera. If you notice yourself thinking, “aaaaaand cut,” during a scene, that’s a good bet that it needed another pass through the editing process.
I’m getting too technical though. The overall experience of the movie is a good one. I even enjoyed Jimmy Fallon for once. When I first saw that he was the announcer at the roller derby, I was worried, but he actually has some of the best lines in the movie. Andrew Wilson (yes, brother to Owen and Luke) is also funny as the coach of The Hurl Scouts, the team that Bliss joins before earning her new derby name of Babe Ruthless.
It may not be as funny a movie as it tries to be, but it’s pretty much as entertaining and sweet as it tries to be, which earns it a pretty solid recommendation from me. It also managed to teach me a few things about roller derby which, let’s face it, is, alone, an important enough reason to see the movie…
I learned the fairly simple rules of Roller Derby…and I am a better person for it.
10 – 1.4 for the plot lines being pretty standard – 1.2 for some odd directing/editing moments + .2 for those 4 main performances = 7.6