Movies: "Whip It": Fact or fiction?

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Drew Barrymore's feature directorial debut Whip It is a good time for sure, but is it true to the spirit of women's roller derby? For an expert opinion on the difference between real and reel, we talked to Alli Catraz, a three-year veteran of Ohio Roller Girls - also known as Amy Spears, assistant director of Ohio State's Digital Media Project - after she and some fellow players attended a sneak preview.

Overall impressions?

I was so happy with it. We had fears that it was going to be really campy, but they did such a good job getting the game. They took certain elements of the game out, and I was happy that they did, because it made it much easier for someone who's never seen derby to understand the action.

Is the game itself portrayed accurately?

Yeah, pretty much. We could tell that things were choreographed, but I don't think they came across as choreographed. Obviously they had to be to keep people from hurting each other.

Of course, [since it was shot in Michigan], we know skaters that are in the movie. Jackie Daniels is from Grand Rapids. The track was from a league in Oklahoma, so they got in with derby people early on in the production.

One thing that they didn't show is that we're all running the behind-the-scenes stuff. There was no scene of someone sitting on Gmail for an hour. We don't have coaches for every team, and not everybody has a warehouse practice space. A locker room? We were like, "Ooh, a locker room - that's impressive."

How about the relationships between the players?

I like that there was this idea that you could trash-talk somebody and go out there and play, but you're friends off the rink. I think that's very accurate.

Did it get one thing really right, or really wrong?

I think that if we could all pull crowds like they showed we'd be very happy. But that's probably accurate for some leagues, so it's not totally off the mark. I laughed when the girls came in on skates to the thrift store - that was kind of over-the-top.

But largely it was really on, and it was especially heartwarming because when the trailer came out and it was all punching in the face and clotheslines, we were really worried.

People remember derby from the '70s and the American Gladiator era, when it was all choreographed, and expect us to be doing that. But then you see it in context and realize [the rough player] gets ejected every time she does it.