“From the director of All About Steve” doesn’t exactly set marquees alight, and this is undoubtedly why it wasn’t included on the poster. Phil Traill’s Chalet Girl couldn’t be further away from the director’s previous feature effort, a film that earned a special place in Rotten Tomatoes Bottom 100 with an average score of 6%. Throwing caution to the wind, and strapping on his skis, American-born/British raised director Traill heads across the pond and tracks through the snow for a bit of a throwback British romantic comedy.
Would-be champion skateboarder Kim (Felicity Jones, The Tempest) quits the profession when her mother is killed in a car accident, and she is left working a dead-end job as a fast-food jockey and looking after her bumbling father Bill (Bill Bailey, Burke & Hare). When a friend alerts her to the prospect of work as a chalet girl in the ski slopes of Austria, Kim is able to take the job when one of the highfalutin girls drops out at the last minute. Initially shunned by seasoned chalet girl Georgie (Tamsin Egerton, St Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold), not to mention the snooty matriarch of the family who owns the chalet (Brooke Shields, Furry Vengeance), she soon finds twin passions in snowboarding and hunky rich-kid Jonny (Ed Westwick, Gossip Girl).
Chalet Girl is an interesting mix of modern rom-com and old-school British farce, not too dissimilar to the vibe of the more recent St. Trinians films. While there are certainly all the trappings of a teenage romantic comedy here, the film’s forays into a bit of cheeky humour and partial nudity, not to mention the age of the characters, seem to aim this at a slightly older audience. Whatever the demographic is on Ed Westwick. It is this confusion that overly labours the film in its first half, weighing it down with more exposition that a Tolkien novel and a plethora of characters who might be fun, but are ultimately incidental to the primary plot. It is only when Kim discovers snowboarding, much later in the piece than one would imagine from the promos, that the film picks up momentum. Here it becomes another kind of hybrid, mixing rom-com with the age-old tradition of the sports film. It is predictable, of course, especially when the deus ex machina of the $25,000 snowboarding championship and a would-be mentor in the form of real-life snowboard champ Tara Dakides (playing herself) appears. Yet once the film, and the audience, are allowed to accept this inevitability, a fair amount of fun is to be had.
Traill’s main directorial experience is on television, and the plotting of Chalet Girl is fairly indicative of this. Feeling very much like the kind of Disney Chanel Original Movies that tend to go direct-to-DVD in most countries, there isn’t much about Chalet Girl – beyond the odd mountain vista – that especially needs the theatrical treatment. Bill Nighy typically pleases in a small role as the father of the family, and newcomer Felicity Jones shows the kind of leading-lady talent that will soon see her break through in major roles for Like Crazy and Hysteria.