Are you ready for a fairy tale with a sporting kick to it? Chalet Girl is a modern-day ‘dreams come true’ story that anybody can easily relate to, the idea of finding love and success on the snowy Alps. As the beginning of 2011 slowly kicks in, many dream of getting away, so this film is ideal cinema fluff, but with a true Brit streak of sarcasm to it from All About Steve director Phil Traill.
Working-class tomboy Kim Matthews (Felicity Jones) was once a champion skateboarder destined for greater things, until a family tragedy puts a premature end to her dream. Struggling to help pay the bills in a dead-end fast-food job and trying to support her down-on-his-luck father (Bill Bailey), she gets the opportunity to cater for a wealthy family (headed by Bill Nighy) in one of the most exclusive chalets in the Alps. It’s an alien lifestyle to her, full of posh people, champagne and skiing. She soon discovers a release that she’s good at and that’s similar to skateboarding; snowboarding, plus the chance to win some much-needed prize money in the big end-of-season competition. In the meantime, she makes new friends – and enemies – and falls for the family’s son, the handsome Jonny (Ed Westwick). Can she win the top prize and get the boy?
The outcome of the story is totally inevitable, but the journey getting there is incredibly good fun, from Kim’s clashes with the toffs and the decadent lifestyle, intermingled with the cosy wooden comfort of the chalet environment that’s the perfect catalyst for love to bloom. It’s a bit of Cinderella story, too, as Kim as Cinders must deal with the ‘uglier’ females of the brood, namely Jonny’s stepmother Caroline (Brooke Shields) and his fiancée Chloe (Sophia Bush).
Kim goes from rags to riches, but in a refreshingly contemporary twist, all of her own making. So, there’s a true ‘girl power’ aspect to the film that will be inspirational to younger females, too. In fact Kim is a true fighter and get-up-and-go character who you can empathise with straightway. Admittedly, there was a bit of scepticism about well-heeled Jones in the lead, trying to play a convincing working-class kid from South London. However, for her character to win the handsome prize at the end, there had to be some believability and not too big a stepping stone, and Jones makes the part of Kim her own, having some naughty fun along the way with her.
The comedy praise goes to Tamsin Egerton as the bitchy Georgie, ‘head’ chalet girl, but presumably born with a sliver spoon in her mouth. Her character is a little tragic, actually, as she’s a little older and still trying to party like a teen with no responsibilities, while ensnaring a wealthy man. As with all coming-of-age tales, through Kim’s frank outlook on life, Georgie learns a few home truths and develops a respect for Kim that allows them to bond in the most surreal of environments. Egerton is perfectly cast, possibly down to her schoolgirl days in St Trinian’s as the equally bitchy Chelsea. She’s basically a grown-up version who rubs shoulders with money, but doesn’t quite have it in her grasp.
Gossip Girl fans will be thrilled to hear that Westwick tones down the devilishly evil streak, and plays the sensitive dashing hero in this, only having to glance in the direction of the camera lens to set hearts swooning, opting for a 007 attire in one scene to get pulses rising, too. There is ample for Westwick fans to absorb and delight in. Shields and Nighy initially sounds like a bizarre pairing, but it works exceptionally well, each adding their own cutting observations into the equation, while Nighy plays on his eccentric qualities to bring businessman Richard to life with all the Nighy vigour you expect.
As for the snowboarding action, there’s plenty of it, from aerials and grinds to halfpipe tricks to wow any audience and spark a snowboarding craze – plus, if this is a date movie, the other-half has more than just the ladies to coo over. Indeed, real-life snowboarding champ Tara Dakides makes an appearance, too, adding some credibility to the sporting parts. There’s also a life-loving character in the shape of ‘dude’ Mikki, a mental Finn, played by German actor Ken Duken, who adds to the entertainment as the film’s lovable ‘fool’ and big soppy best friend, like a faithful St Bernard to the rescue.
Overall, Chalet Girl is inoffensive, feel-good escapism and high jinks in the midst of extravagant surroundings. It has all the right snowboarding and flirtageous moves – plus a shocking Bailey in a birthday suit scene – to keep most happy, even though it has some groan inducing and clichéd scenarios. The cast make the idyllic picture, though, and you get as much enjoyment out of them, as they obviously did making it.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie
(Follow Lisa on Twitter: @FilmGazer)