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Chalet Girl

2011 | 96 min | BBFC: 12 | 1.85:1

Chalet Girl


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Theatrical release date

 14 October, 2011
 16 March, 2011

Country of origin

 United Kingdom

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Chalet Girl


Chalet Girl Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 3, 2011

“Chalet Girl” is fluff best served to young teenage girls dreaming of exotic locales and unattainable men, a fantasy set to blaring pop music and decorated with a heavy splattering of sarcasm. It has its charms, mostly provided by the cast, but it doesn’t add up to anything memorable, best appreciated as a lighthearted distraction for sleepover parties, handed unique life through its European locations and lovely snowscapes, lending the frame a refreshing white glow to counteract all the mundane particulars of the script.

Giving up on her pro snowboarding dreams when her mother is killed in a car accident, Kim (Felicity Jones) has elected a life of customer service, also helping her widowed father (Bill Bailey) with daily chores. Offered an unexpected opportunity to make money as domestic help inside an Austrian ski chalet, Kim takes the job, finding her opulent surroundings intimidating and her co-worker, Georgie (Tamsin Egerton), dismissive. Home to industrialist Richard (Bill Nighy), wife Caroline (Brooke Shields), and son Jonny (Ed Westwick), Kim quickly learns her place in the household dynamic, traveling out into the snow during her downtime to reclaim her lost snowboarding skill. While making friends and shedding her homesickness, Kim soon captures Jonny’s attention, a complex situation that threatens to sabotage her return to competition, setting out to capture a large cash prize at the resort.

It’s difficult to criticize “Chalet Girl” for being so weightless when that’s exactly the sensation director Phil Traill is looking to achieve. It’s teen catnip, playing up a fantasy scenario where a girl of limited means experiences the other side of financial stability, entering the chalet as a frightened young thing unsure of herself, only to acquire independence while off on her adventure, meeting all sorts of characters along the way. It’s PG-13 escapism (with alcohol consumption and some sexual activity), but harmless enough, hitting a few bullet points of empowerment along the way. It would be a passable diversion if it weren’t all so incredibly dull.

The screenplay by Tom Williams labors through many of the conflicts, pitting Kim’s working class sass against her kindly but indifferent employers, creating isolation for the character, who initially regrets taking an employment opportunity so far away from her needy father. What follows is a formulaic assembly of self-esteem acquired and romantic entanglements launched, even throwing in a tournament setting to conjure a grand finale, testing our heroine and her eroding sense of snowboarding trepidation. It’s a beach party movie on snow, populated with a few Austrian eccentrics and oodles of skiing and snowboarding footage, deployed during training montages and shots of mountainside serenity, helping to understand how Kim gets her chilly groove back. “Chalet Girl” looks inviting, with handsome actors and gorgeous locations, but it’s dramatically inert, failing to challenge cliché. Williams doesn’t do anything with these familiar narrative parts, only using them in common ways, weighing the film down with joyless predictability.

Keeping “Chalet Girl” upright is the cast, lead by a spunky performance from Jones, who offers the material a real heart, forming a human character out of obvious elements. Also providing a few sly moves is Nighy in a static role, trying to get his skilled quirk out front and center, while Egerton supplies some tartness in a one-note supporting turn as the bully turned BFF. Westwick is the confusing member of the ensemble, oozing stockbroker slime as the alleged knight in shining Brooks Brothers. Not that Jonny is an evil character, but the actor plays the role with palpable menace, making one wonder if Jonny might ultimately be looking to pimp Kim to his buddies. He’s not exactly romantic lead material, perhaps incapable of communicating warmth.

“Chalet Girl” sets out to capture the troubles of the teen heart, and it manages a few convincing scenes. There’s just not enough to hold attention, eventually succumbing entirely to convention in a particularly insipid finale. Who knows, maybe even teenage girls will be rolling their eyes at the predictability of it all.

Starring: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Bill Nighy
Director: Phil Traill

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