Chalet Girl

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Chalet Girl could be the title of a Disney Channel movie and just about has the originality of one, but agreeable performances by a confident cast make this better than your average movie of the month. Oscar-nominated Felicity Jones stars as regular girl Kim who “serves toffs little foods” at an Alpine ski resort and finds herself falling for the dashing son of a jet-setting family.

She is the main reason for the film’s appeal. Infinitely watchable, Jones is charming but with the snappy sarcasm of a nineteen year old who should be doing more with her life than she is. Despite being a good ten years older than her character, the actress pulls off a believable teenager, injecting Kim with a healthy dose of cynicism while maintaining abundant stores of goodwill.

And that’s what the character needs after the death of her mother in a car accident. In her grief, Kim decides to swap a promising skateboarding career for the tedium of a fast food joint. Her other raison d’être is managing her lovable but helpless father (Bill Bailey). Nevertheless, when she gets an offer to work in Switzerland, she jumps at the chance, even if it means leaving dad to his own devices.

At first, Kim seems to be an ill fit for the chalet girl life, which, for those of us who aren’t in the know, is something akin to a housekeeper, cook, and PA rolled into one leggy, buxom blonde. Kim effortlessly handles the hoovering and the foie gras, but she’s less sure about cozying up to the family she’s working for. Her colleague, Georgie (Tamsin Egerton), on the other hand, has no problem stepping across employer/employee boundaries and happily joins in their merrymaking.

Kim’s struggles to find her place play into the generic themes of overcoming class and one’s past. In accepting her mother’s death and thus conquering her fear of the slopes – with help from a scraggly German snowboarder (Ken Duken), she also bridges the working stiff/posh people chasm. Bill Nighy as the patriarch is gentle and forgiving while Brooke Shields is his fabulously condescending wife. She isn’t too pleased when her son, Johnny (Ed Westwick), takes a liking to the girl from steerage despite being engaged to fellow rich person Chloe (Sophia Bush).

If the inter-class romance lacks inspiration, the performances try to patch things up. Besides Jones’s welcome presence, Westwick also smolders effectively as Kim’s lover. He ticks off all the boxes as a reasonably romantic lead and, maybe for the better, doesn’t try to compete with Jones for the spotlight. His chiseled cheekbones and whispered purring are more than enough to make you cheer for the young couple, which in turn will make you want to cheer for the movie.

Released: 2011
Prod: Wolfgang Behr, Pippa Cross, Dietmar Guentsche, Harriet Rees
Dir: Phil Traill
Writer: Tom Williams
Cast: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Tasmin Egerton, Bill Nighy, Brooke Shields, Bill Bailey, Sophia Bush, Ken Duken, Nicholas Braun, Gregor Bloéb, Tara Dakides, Georgia King, Tom Goodman-Hill, Jessica Hynes
Time: 96 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2015

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