Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

I've never been skiing and, what's more, have no desire to ever do so. That's probably because of my aversion to the cold. Don't get me wrong: if you want to invite me to the Austrian Alps for a winter weekend, please do. Just don't be disappointed when I take up residence by the chalet's open fire, indulging in hot chocolate and not once taking to the snowfields.

Kim (Felicity Jones) isn't one for the snow either; skateboarding has always been her thing with a trophy or two as a result. But when an opportunity arises to work a few months as a chalet girl (apparently a real job, although just a fancy term for maid) in the Austrian Alps, for a well-heeled family who visit only on weekends, she takes it.

This isn't so much to broaden her horizons but to help out her financially-strapped dad (Bill Bailey) who, following his wife's (and Kim's mum's) death, hasn't really been too concerned with everyday things like work and bills.

In Austria, Kim is teamed with veteran chalet girl, Georgie (Tamsin Egerton), who doesn't exactly take the newbie under her wing so much as attempt to keep her underfoot. But Kim's a do-it-my-way kinda girl, which might not impress Georgie but wins points with Jonny (Ed Westwick), the son of the family whose chalet it is.

He might be about to propose to his long term girlfriend (Sophia Bush), and mostly to fulfil the expectations of his mother (Brooke Shields; Bill Nighy plays the cool cat dad), but Jonny can't resist the down to earth charms of the help.

This Kim-Jonny relationship provoked a quiet niggle at the back of my mind throughout Chalet Girl, not so much because of the employer romantically fraternising with the employee scenario, but because of the age difference. Jonny must be at least 25, while Kim comes across as a teenager barely out of high school, if at all. And while there are no actual sex scenes, there is the definite suggestion of sex, which begs the question: just who is this PG rated film aimed at?

More pressing for Kim than her romantic entanglement, however, is overcoming her fear of heights (and her memory of her mother's car crash death) so she can compete in and win the annual ski jump tournament which boasts a $25,000 first prize.

Employing her skateboarding skills to the slopes, Kim (eventually) takes to her new sport like a polar bear to ice but will she overcome her fears? Will she qualify for the tournament's final round and, in doing so, take out first prize? Will she also win the heart of her rich (older) lover?

Snowflakes may be the predominant backdrop to Chalet Girl, but nothing about this British comedy, directed by Phil Traill and scripted by Tom Williams, is that unique. Except, perhaps, Felicity Jones. The pint-sized Jones has the same confident swagger as Ellen Page in 2007's Juno but unfortunately for her, doesn't have the sassy-mouthed writing of Diablo Cody to back her up.

As engaging as Jones may be (and word of mouth suggests she's even more so in the forthcoming Like Crazy), the humour of Chalet Girl falls as flat as Kim's early attempts at snowboarding.

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