Whip It (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Impossible to dislike Drew Barrymore's directorial debut or Ellen Page's feisty teen heroine, though as a comedy about a minority sport it doesn't have the hectic energy and laughs of Dodgeball, the standard by which I judge all such movies.

Page plays small-town Texas girl Bliss, coerced by her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) into the ghastly pretence of a local beauty pageant, but secretly making a name for herself as a star player in Austin's all-female roller derby. The game itself is less interesting than its participants, who all have comically aggressive names like Eva Destruction, Iron Maven and Bloody Holly (Bliss is Babe Ruthless), but you still need pluck and grit to take the hard knocks on the roller circuit. Page, shorn of the snarky backchat that characterised her roles in Juno and Hard Candy, proves she can do sweetness and light without being ingratiating; her relationship with her career-minded mum and mild-mannered dad (Daniel Stern) is credibly touching. What's also refreshing about Whip It is the unAmerican emphasis on enjoying the sport's camaraderie, even if you're not natural winners: Bliss's team of wannabe champs seem destined to be merely OK. A bit like this film.