It has two mother/child relationships, the central one between Texas teenager Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), a tomboy ambivalent about the attempts of her mother (Marcia Gay Harden), to push her into the beauty pageant world, and a subsidiary one between derby chick Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), a single mom with a young son.
More intimately than most in Hollywood, Barrymore knows how few female types there are on screen. Beyond the good girl and the bad girl (movie versions of the madonna and the whore), there are millions of square pegs. Barrymore puts faces and gives backstories to these nonconformists trying to define themselves before others define them. The chief appeal of the film is to watch Bliss, misfit among angelic pageant girls, emerge as derby devil Babe Ruthless – sensitive, combative, girly, butch, timid, and fearless – whisking conflicting femininities into one tasty serving.
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