Having been a star player in Hollywood her entire life, Drew Barrymore views the set from the other side of the camera, in “Whip It” (released in Japan as “Roller Girls Diary”) — a wobbly but adorable, whip-smart feature debut. Barrymore, whose own screen presence is always wildly ingratiating, made a few brilliant choices here: the selection of the material (based on an autobiographical novel of the same name by real-life roller girl Shauna Cross), a peppy cast (including can-do-no-wrong Ellen Page and the captivating Juliette Lewis) and the decision to hurl everyone into roller boot camp for four weeks prior to shooting. The result is that we get to see some of Hollywood’s most treasured female talents take to the derby track wearing 100 layers of eyeliner and fishnets — to snarl, growl and beat the crap out of each other. Who’d want to miss that?

Roller Derby is a sport that originated sometime during the 1930s, and fizzled out 40 years later. In 2000 it came back — mostly to Austin, Texas, where the best and biggest tournaments are played out in a stadium crammed with screaming fans. The rules are deceptively simple — the players skate on an oval track competing for speed, wherewithal and the guts to elbow smash an opponent right into the fence. There’s not much money in the sport — most of the players have day jobs — for a whole lot of physical riskiness that involve broken limbs, knee fractures and other hazards on a daily basis. But ah, the glory of being a hellcat hero on wheels. In “Whip It,” Lewis plays a 36-year-old skater who goes by the name of “Iron Maven” and has an attitude the size of the San Andreas fault. She’s not afraid to hammer a newcomer onto the track (face first) but is equally willing to take whatever blows that come her way.

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