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Downhill all the way

What the world needs now, perhaps as a matter of some urgency, is love, sweet love, but, failing that, wouldn’t a decent, warm, engaging rom-com do? It might but, alas, it isn’t Chalet Girl.

19 March 2011

12:00 AM

19 March 2011

12:00 AM

What the world needs now, perhaps as a matter of some urgency, is love, sweet love, but, failing that, wouldn’t a decent, warm, engaging rom-com do? It might but, alas, it isn’t Chalet Girl.

What the world needs now, perhaps as a matter of some urgency, is love, sweet love, but, failing that, wouldn’t a decent, warm, engaging rom-com do? It might but, alas, it isn’t Chalet Girl. I’d like it to be Chalet Girl. I wanted it to be Chalet Girl. It’s got two excellent Bills in it — Nighy and Bailey — which made me hopeful, initially. But? OK, because I don’t know how to let you down gently on this (I bunked off the how-to-let-you-down-gently classes at school; it was the ‘citizenship’ of its day and none of us took it seriously) I’m going to let you down hard, like this: Chalet Girl is banal, witless, slushy, laboured and dull.

You may think I could not have let you down harder if I’d tried but, actually, I could. I could have added that it adds up to nothing more than a series of predictable set pieces, lame jokes and snowy pratfalls, but at least I had the good grace to pull back from that.

You’d think, at least, that there would be some attempt to make the set-up credible, but even this isn’t so. Felicity Jones stars as Kim, a poor, working-class girl and although Ms Jones seems sweetness itself, and I can see she might be most engaging in other circumstances, poor and working class? She talks, looks and carries herself as if she attended Roedean. They might as well have cast Jemima Khan and had done with it.


Anyway, Kim, who was a champion skateboarder until a family tragedy put an end to it — oops— now works in a dead-end fast-food job while trying to support her depressed father (Bailey, who just mooches about, in a depressed kind of way). But then, via a storyline that is, needless to say, dumb, she secures four months’ work as a chalet girl for a rich family who have a home in the Austrian Alps. The family is headed by a rich banker (Nighy; proper class, but too little too late) who has a trophy wife (Brooke Shields; interesting casting but she has only about four lines) and a son.

The son is Jonny, played by Ed Westwick who is always billed as ‘Ed Westwick from Gossip Girl’. What is Gossip Girl? A pop band? A TV show? I don’t know, and I can’t be bothered to Google it, but whatever it is he should go back to it. Honestly, my dog, who has only one eyebrow and very stinky breath, is more charismatic, and would make a better romantic lead. Yet Jonny takes a kindly shine to Kim, as she does to him, weirdly, but will they? Or won’t they? Will they overcome the pratfalls and predictable set pieces and find a way to be together? Or will they eat a bad fondue, writhe around a lot, and be dead by morning? To this last, I would say: I wish. I can’t think of a single thing in this that warmed my cockles or made me laugh and, therefore, can’t think of a single reason you might wish to see it.

And now, in stark contrast, Ken Loach’s Route Irish, which I did not have high hopes for. In fact, having heard it’s about private security contractors in Iraq, I rather dreaded it, as you might if you knew you had double maths followed by double how-to-let-you-down-gently and then detention. The problem with Ken Loach isn’t his rage, but finding a good place to put it; a place that will allow an audience to go with him.

This stars Mark Womack as Fergus, a former SAS officer, who spent some time working as a private security contractor (i.e., mercenary) in Baghdad, but is back home in Liverpool when he learns that his best buddy and fellow contractor, Frankie (John Bishop), who is still out there, has been blown up. Unhappy with the official explanation for Frankie’s death, Fergus sets out to determine the truth in a film that doesn’t know what it is — a polemic? A thriller? A revenge/vigilante movie? — and doesn’t succeed at any one. The acting is shouty, the script is full of exposition, and some scenes are simply that: shouty exposition.

Plus, what is its point? Is it about the privatisation of war? If so, is he saying non-privatised war is OK? And how are we meant to care about these people; people who accept £10,000 a month to do other people’s dirty business in hotspots abroad? Did they imagine it would be like working behind the haberdashery counter in John Lewis?

So, two disappointing films this week and I’m sorry I couldn’t let you down more gently, but there you have it. You’ll have to go elsewhere for more gentle handling, and love, sweet love. There is none to be had here.


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