Writer Shauna Cross injects a lot of herself into the story, as she is a member of a roller derby team. She draws on her experience and the reality behind the people who play it. Cross's script takes the traditional framework of the coming of age drama and populates it with characters who could exist in the real world and gives them dialogue that does not smack of Hollywood, but instead rings true.
As for the direction from Drew Barrymore? Surprisingly good. I would not call it spectacular or anything, but it does the job at hand. She is not flashy with the camera and does not go above and beyond in trying to be stylish. Still, it is clear that she was paying attention on all of those sets she has been on over the years. The result is a mature, confident film that works much better than it probably should.
Bottom line. This movie succeeds on many levels. It is not a perfect film as it is still a familiar story that does not break new ground. It works because of all the elements I mentioned, strong performances, genuine emotion, good writing, all things needed to make a successful movie. It also makes me want to watch some roller derby.