Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Phil Traill
Stars: Felicity Jones, Bill Nighy, Brooke Shields, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Egerton, Ed Westwick, Sophia Bush, Ken Dukken.
This British/German co-production comes across as something of a mix of formulaic feel good romantic comedy crossed with some generous doses of Warren Miller-like snowboarding action on the ski slopes of the Austrian Alps. The film deals with themes of romance, class issues, confronting your fears, but it is somewhat lightweight and cliched. It’s Pride And Prejudice on skis!
Rising star Felicity Jones (from the recent The Tempest, etc) plays Kim Matthews, a former champion teenage skateboarder, who disappeared from the scene following a tragic car accident that killed her mother. Kim looks after her unemployed and depressed father (comic Bill Bailey), and works at a dead end job at a fast food restaurant to support him. But desperate for more money she lands a job as a “chalet girl”, a glorified maid at a ritzy ski resort in Austria, which is the holiday home for banking tycoon Richard Madsen (the always droll Bill Nighy) and his trophy wife Caroline (Brooke Shields).
There’s instant rivalry between Kim and the snotty and man hungry Georgie (Tamsin Egerton), who has been a regular employee at the chalet for a couple of years, but their relationship soon mellows into friendship. Kim and handsome playboy Jonny (Ed Westwick, from tv series Gossip Girl, etc) hit it off. However, Caroline disapproves of her because she comes from a lowly background. And Jonny is due to become engaged to society girl Chloe (Sophia Bush).
During her down time Kim discovers the courage to try snowboarding, and proves to be very good at the sport. Finnish snowboarder Mikki (Ken Dukken) takes Kim under his wing and encourages her to get back onto a skateboard and take part in an upcoming championship that carries a prize purse of $25,000.
Chalet Girl is the debut feature film from writer Tom Williams, and it seems over plotted at times, with several subplots woven throughout the main narrative. It’s also quite predictable, not that matters. Director Phil Traill helmed the critically panned US version of Australian sitcom Kath & Kim and also gave us the dire Sandra Bullock romantic comedy All About Steve. His handling of the material here is quite laboured and uninspired at times, although he does manage to inject some energy into the snowboarding sequences. And it has been beautifully photographed by Ed Wild (Prisoners Of The Sun, etc), who makes the most of the gorgeous snow covered landscapes. The scenery is fabulous, but the story creaks along a little.
Obviously the big name cast was attracted by the notion of a skiing holiday while making a movie in some picturesque locations. Jones is a very likeable young actress who also brings a feisty quality to her performance and lights up the screen with her youthful energy. Bailey lends some droll humour to his role as Kim’s father, who is left to fend for himself with a microwave oven and a diet of frozen lasagne.
But the likes of Nighy and Shields are wasted in thankless roles. German actor Adam Bousdoukos (Soul Kitchen, etc) is also wasted in a thankless role as Willy, a bar tender who offers Kim some advice. Real life snowboard champion Tara Dakides plays herself in the competition scenes.
But it is the energetic snowboarding sequences that will hold the most appeal for the film’s target audience.
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