Pretty 19 year old tomboy Kim Matthews (Felicity Jones) used to be a champion skateboarder but after a car accident which killed her mum, she's stuck in a dead end job at a take away diner trying to support her unemployed dad, Bill (Bill Bailey). When an agency urgently needs a four month replacement for a catering/housekeeping job in a swish private chalet in the Austrian Alps, Kim accepts. She is unused to the world of rich and snobby people, champagne and skiing - but then she discovers snowboarding, and the chance to win some much needed prize money at the major end of season competition. But she needs to learn fast and she needs loads of luck.
Review by Louise Keller:
The majestic Austrian Alps are the backdrop for this likeable romance about a Chalet Girl whose compass finds its direction as snowboarding and the boss's son come up on her radar. There's nothing terribly original about Tom Williams' debut screenplay about taking chances, facing your fears and going for your dreams, but the story is nicely told and is a better fit for director Phil Traill than his first feature All About Steve, in which Sandra Bullock's crossword constructor embarrassingly chased Bradley Cooper's news cameraman across America. The scenery is gorgeous and although the plot is predictable, it's a pleasant interlude with some laughs and surprising observations.
After a brief sequence in which we learn that Kim (Felicity Jones), a former skateboard champion has hung up her skateboard following the death of her mother in a car accident, we learn that life is pretty tough. Her summer job cooking and cleaning in a fast food chain is now her everyday reality as she supports her constantly depressed father (Bill Bailey). The offer of a 4-month stint in a posh Chalet in Austria sounds too good to be true - especially when serving Champagne and caviar is the gig du jour.
Jones has an appealing no-nonsense quality as the petite English lass who makes and leaves an impression - whether it is her cooking, her quick wit or her newfound interest in snowboarding. Unlike Georgie (Tamsin Egerton), her initially snobby roommate who aims to find a rich man, Kim has her feet firmly grounded - on the beautiful virgin snow. Then fate smiles on both of them - but not in the way they expect.
As Kim's father eats the frozen meals (lotsa lasagna) Kim has stacked in the freezer back in England, Kim becomes immersed in a very different world, where her employers seem to be drinking her entire salary every 10 minutes (1962 Vintage Dom Perignom at 500 pounds a bottle). There's good chemistry between Kim and Jonny (Ed Westwick) and a nice vibe with Mikki from Finland (Ken Duken), who encourages Kim to vie for the $25,000 snowboarding prize. Bill Nighy is underused but a welcome presence as the Chalet owner who has his own Chalet Girl story.
Being a Chalet Girl seems rather appealing in this easy-to-like film, whose simple plot, engaging characters and feel-good dramatic arc lift us into a snowy wonderland. The grandeur and dazzling beauty of the Alps around St Anton are showcased beautifully - in the context of fun, sport and romance.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Taking a leaf out of Hollywood's book, Chalet Girl combines the underdog genre with fish out of water and ugly duckling themes to surprisingly good effect. Felicity Jones makes a cheeky Kim Matthews with a nice, dry line in sarcasm as the ugly duckling among the self important blondes who usually get the prized chalet girl jobs at St Anton in the Tirol. Girls like Georgie (Tamsin Egerton) and Amy (Abbie Dunn); tall, leggy and snobbish, who look down on Kim at first sight as a suburban working class girl who has no place in this world.
Kim has landed in the luxury private chalet of a business tycoon Richard (Bill Nighy) and his wife Caroline (Brooke Shields), whose handsome and smart son Jonny (Ed Westwick) is about to get engaged to stuck up Sophia (Chloe). They arrive and start slurping vintage champagne and caviar, while Kim learns the gold plated ropes.
Meanwhile her dad (Bill Bailey, fine) is struggling with household duties back home, but Kim is sending her wages home. All this takes a while to get established, but we're kept amused and interested by the combination of a lively script, some eccentricities amidst the English sensibility - together with touches of understatement from a wry Nighy.
Ken Dukken does a great job as Mikki the snowboarder who takes Kim under his snowboard wing and encourages her, and Ed Westwick is likeable and credible as the man who falls for Kim despite their class differences.
The screenplay (by debuting feature writer Tom Williams) gives its various characters a well constructed emotional journey, from the essential hero's journey for Kim, to arcs of self discovery for the likes of Jonny and of becoming authentic and true to themselves for Georgie and Amy. Phil Traill directs with a sense of both fun and sensitivity, careful not to overstate the basic elements.
With its down to earth heroine in Kim, the film underplays the triumph of the spirit theme, while delivering a satisfying, textured experience for the audience. Kim has to overcome her demons, with which we fully sympathise. The snowy locations in Austria are spectacular and some of the ski-ing and snowboarding footage is thrilling.
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CHALET GIRL (PG)
CAST: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Tamsin Egerton, Bill Nighy, Brooke Shields, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Egerton, Sophia Bush
PRODUCER: Wolfgang Behr, Pippa Cross, Dietmar Guntsche, Harriet Rees
DIRECTOR: Phil Traill
SCRIPT: Tom Williams
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ed Wild
EDITOR: Robin Sales
MUSIC: Christian Henson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Benedikt Herforth
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 1, 2011