Monday 14 March 2011

Training slopes: "Chalet Girl"

Chalet Girl, the first official ConDem romcom, tells the story of a working-class girl, daughter to a single father, who finds herself rescued from burger-bar drudgery when she volunteers to work as a chalet girl at an exclusive mountain resort. Surrounded by her employers' Picassos and Lichtensteins, young Kim (Felicity Jones) takes to bowing and scraping like a duck to frozen water, but - in the process - learns lots about herself, and lots more about where money gets you, including the benefits to be gained from having your own helicopter. Zigzagging the resort's various temptations and obstacles, she will eventually be rewarded for her service with a swift boffing from the young lord of the manor (Ed Westwick, a Lidl R-Pattz). Hey presto: it's the Big Society - on ice! 

To be completely fair, Phil Traill's film is rather more politically neutral, and a modicum more fun, than the above synopsis would suggest. Admittedly, there is a good deal to get past to achieve maximum enjoyment: the deadening predictability of its soundtrack cues (Scouting for Girls, Eliza Doolittle, Ellie Bloody Goulding); a set-up (on ice!) that initially requires Jones to fall over and generally humiliate herself in the committee-approved Bridget Jones style, here linked - in clumsy psychological fashion - so that each fall reminds Kim of the car accident that did for her mother; a leading man who resembles Nick Kamen and the lead singers of various late 80s pop acts (Curiosity Killed the Cat, Johnny Hates Jazz) blended, all too smoothly, into one; the fact that the cinematic representation of wintersports - lots of green-screen, shots from the waist up, and doubles for the leads - doesn't seem to have come on all that much from Better Off Dead... 25 years ago; hell, even the fundamentally impassable lameness of the poster's "snow-mantic comedy" copywriting. 

Against all this, Chalet Girl provides a perfectly decent showcase for Jones, a valuable supporting player in everything up to (but not including) the recent The Tempest; if the role demands she play young - Kim's a chalet girl, and not yet a woman - her warmth and likability survive wholly intact. The storyline, although cookie-cutter, finds smart, funny bits for Tamsin Egerton, a tall, rangy comedienne who just so happens to have the looks of a pre-Raphaelite goddess and/or a young(er) Holly Willoughby; for Bill Nighy, once more his own man as the patriarch of the rich clan; and, conversely, for Bill Bailey, stranded back in North London for the duration of the shoot as the latest in the enduring tradition of useless British movie dads, surviving on baked beans alone while his beloved offspring's away, and rightly, repeatedly turning his nose up at aubergine. It's as light and fluffy as snow itself - and quite possibly just as temporary - but there are worse things for your teenage daughters to be watching. 

Chalet Girl opens nationwide on Wednesday.

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