Title: Chalet Girl
Director: Phil Traill
Starring: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Tamsin Egerton, Bill Bailey, Bill Nighy, Brooke Shields, Sophia Bush, Ken Duken, Nicholas Braun, Tara Dakides
Sliding into Chalet Girl is the equivalent of being transported into a cute 96 minute extended anecdote. Set on a glamorous ski resort in Austria, this coming-of-age/rom-com is just too cute to rip on. Yes there is cliched storytelling techniques found within the movie mechanics and the outcome is never in question. But the seasonal atmosphere is fun to take-in, and the British style of acting provides a nice change-of-pace in an all too familiar tale.
19 year-old Kim (Felicity Jones) had a promising skateboarding career on-tap until the tragic passing of her mother; leaving her shaken and unable to get back on the board. Plus, her father (Bill Bailey) just couldn’t pull it together after the accident so she gave it all up to nurse him back to mental health. Kim obviously isn’t thrilled about her position in life at the moment and the stress of needing to pay the bills for her family starts to become a heavy burden. Surprisingly she lands a gig being a chalet girl for a very wealthy family in Austria. Knowing the contract is only for just few months; she packs her borderline poor-to-middle class gear and departs London, promising to send her paychecks back to her struggling father, who looks to be coming around.
Upon arriving, she enters a pretentious world as she meets her more-or-less chalet boss in the perfectly manicured, Georgie (Tamsin Egerton). Georgie is your prototypical trophy-wife in training and she is shocked that someone who looks like Kim was able to attain this job. As Georgie arrogantly gives Kim the nickel tour, the “lords & ladies of the manor” arrive at their vacation home – which looks like a mansion fit for a movie-star. Richard and Caroline (Bill Nighy & Brooke Shields) constantly forget Kim’s name while their soon-to-be-engaged son and heir-apparent to the throne, Jonny (Ed Westwick), goes out of his way to show her kindness.
When the family is not hanging around, Georgie and Kim start to get along and the latter starts to embrace the lifestyle of the slopes without comprising her values; leading her to pick-up the art of snowboarding fairly quickly as she sets her sights on winning the annual tournament that attracts all the top talent from all over the world. And dishes out a hefty payday.
So you must know where this is headed right? Even if you do, the journey isn’t all that painful as the script injects some edgy adult chatter & scenes (party at the mansion) to counteract the fairytale nature this piece has. Put it this way: if 1985′s Better Off Dead was given an elegant makeover it would probably resemble something close to what Chalet Girl is. There’s high school type drama and plenty of versatile characters that will relate to the audience in some manner. And as a nice added bonus; all the performers show great timing in their respective roles.
The only noticeable blemish on this pristine landscape, aside from whether one likes these types of rom-com flicks – that encompass British humor no less, is the screenplay is accelerating and decelerating at awkward moments. The opening/introduction to the world where this tale unfolds allows the viewer to digest what they’re being served; the foreshadowed ending is quite the opposite and feels rushed; and this is also the point where the cleverness of the writing is not as sharp to the point where you may wonder if this was even finished by whoever started it (a legit question in many feature films). What enables the story to hold onto the viewer are the use of supporting players; who have a purpose and/or thought in their dialogue. And when you toss in the gorgeous action shots on the slopes of Austria, there’s a nice escapism feeling that enters one’s mind. Clearly the filmmakers were struggling to add in sequences to reach feature length status, as a few quick scenes are nothing more than time-fillers. But hey, no harm, no foul.
Overall, Chalet Girl takes a formulaic story and places it in a unique environment. Call it a comeback story, a coming-of-age story, or just another standard fairytale comedy; the execution in this one is far more tolerable than the majority that is out there. And these Brits can act!
Review by Joe Belcastro