There’s probably a freezer labelled “Defrost in case of emergency” – a place where clichéd scripts are stored until they’re needed to plug a hole in a studio’s release schedule. Such a film is Chalet Girl, a film so predictable that it could almost be on rails.
Teenage ex-skateboarding prodigy Kim (the lovely Felicity Jones) works in a burger bar to support her amiable but clueless dad (Bill Bailey) after her mother’s death forced her to retire from competition. Despondent and miserable in her dead end job, she gets her way out when the offer of a job as a chalet girl (a glorified maid) in the Alps drops into her lap.
Arriving at the chalet she soon realises that she’s not cut from the same cloth as the other girls – she’s initially mocked by her posh roommate Georgie (Tamsin Egerton) and chastised for not knowing the rules. It soon becomes apparent that she’s going to be doing most of the work for rich family, the Madsens (Bill Nighy and Brooke Shields), and she gradually starts to fall for their son Jonny (Ed Westwick). Meanwhile, she learns how to snowboard with eccentric Finn Mikki (Ken Duken), who, impressed with how fast she picks skills up, steers her in the direction of a local competition and its $25 grand prize.
The core of the movie is Felicity Jones (seen last year in the excellent Cemetery Junction and this year in the not so wonderful The Tempest) She’s an irrepressibly likable lead, who mixes sarcasm and dead pan snarkiness to good effect and makes the most of the tired script. The cynical amongst you will recognise the telling hallmarks of Juno upon the script but it’s a breezy and fun performance which handily ignores the fact that effusive sarcasm tends to get you fired, not hired in the real world.
Good thing then that Chalet Girl isn’t concerned at all with reality, instead ticking off clichés with the mechanical efficiency of a terminator.
Will her skateboarding skills come in handy? Will she end up with the good looking pretty boy? Will he be more than he first appears? Will she gain the respect of her co-workers and employers? Will she win the coveted competition? It doesn’t take a ski lift to see it all coming a mile away.
Egerton and Westwick were clearly hired for their looks as they’re given nothing to do except live up to their lazily painted stereotypes, Bill Bailey could have hired from Comedy Dads R Us and Bill Nighy and Brooke Shields offer nothing but a bolster to the star quality of the cast list.
The snow-blanketed Alps make for an impressive backdrop but most of the action that takes place on them is endless montages of Kim snowboarding. As it’s clearly not Felicity Jones performing frontside 180s under the scarves and hats, you may as well turn on Eurosport for half an hour and watch that instead.
But despite its myriad flaws and un-ambitious plot, thanks to Jones’s performance, it makes for a harmlessly brainless date movie, even though it’s about as ephemeral as last year’s snowman.