Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Phil Traill|
|Written by||Tom Williams|
|Music by||Christian Henson|
|Edited by||Robin Sales|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
Chalet Girl is a 2011 British romantic comedy film directed by Phil Traill. The film stars Felicity Jones, Bill Bailey, Ed Westwick, Sophia Bush, Brooke Shields and Bill Nighy. The film was produced by Pippa Cross, Harriet Rees, Dietmar Guentsche and Wolfgang Behr, and written by Tom Williams. It was filmed on location in Sankt Anton am Arlberg, Austria and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Critical reaction to the film was mixed, but overall praised Felicity Jones in the leading role.
Kim Mathews (Felicity Jones) is introduced by a television presenter (Miquita Oliver) as a former skateboarding champion whose mother was killed in a car accident. Kim gives up skateboarding and begins working in a fast food burger bar to pay household bills to help her Dad (Bill Bailey).
When she and her dad need more money to pay the bills, Kim goes looking for a job with better pay. Her friend recommends a job choice as a chalet girl, working in the Alps for rich clients. As she is turned down, there is a call to say that the current chalet girl broke her leg and Kim is accepted for the job at the last minute. Chalet Girl Georgie (Tamsin Egerton) is sent to help Kim out but doesn't seem to like her as she is anything but posh or glamorous and she can't ski or snowboard as she has never been to the Alps. Kim is instantly attracted to Johnny (Ed Westwick) the rich son of Richard (Bill Nighy) and Caroline (Brooke Shields), although he is in a relationship with girlfriend Chloe (Sophia Bush).
As Kim is living next to the mountains she tries to teach herself to snowboard although she finds this difficult. Mikki (Ken Duken), seeing her struggle, helps her out and teaches her to snowboard. He notices that she has a natural talent. He persuades her to try out to win a snowboarding competition to win $25,000.
Georgie begins to become friends with Kim and later finds out it is her birthday. She takes Kim to a club, where they get drunk. She persuades Kim to take the party back to where they are staying, as the family are out. Georgie, Kim, Mikki and Georgie's friend, Jules (Georgia King) are in the hot tub and they are naked. Georgie and Mikki continue to hook up.
When Kim gets out of the tub to shovel snow on herself, the family return home and see her naked. Georgie and Kim then proceed to clean the house and pay back for any damage that was done to the house. Kim continues to work on her snowboarding skills and tries to conquer her fear of the high jumps as it brings back the memory of the car crash.
Kim and Johnny become closer and at the end of a business trip with his father and some potential investors he decides to stay behind, presumably to spend more time with Kim. Johnny pays her to teach him how to snowboard, which brings them closer and after a day in the snow they kiss briefly and end up sleeping together. Bernhard (Gregor Bloéb) had spotted them earlier and had alerted Johnny's mother. The morning after their one night stand, Caroline (Johnny's mother) catches them and gives away the fact that Johnny is engaged to Chloe. Kim packs her stuff and leaves the house upset and angry that Johnny lied to her and slept with her even though he was engaged.
As she is going to leave for home her Dad persuades her to stay and try and win the competition as it would have been what her mother wanted. In London, at his and Chloe's engagement party, Johnny breaks up with Chloe in front of the guests. Chloe, piecing together the facts, asks if he is in love with Kim, which he admits to. After hearing the news of their break up, Kim appears to not care about Johnny anymore.
Mikki and Kim enter the competition. Mikki fails to make the high jump and ends up breaking his arm, which takes him out of the chance of winning. Kim does well on all obstacles until she gets to the high jump; she stops as she remembers the car accident again. Although she doesn't make a place in the top 20 to be in the final, she is the first reserve having come 21st. When the finals come, world champion Tara (Tara Dakides, as herself) pulls out and gives up her chances of winning to Kim.
Kim makes all obstacles and jumps, visualizing her mother cheering her on from the crowd; she lands the jump perfectly and wins. Johnny, having come back after breaking up with Chloe, appears behind Kim and apologises; a playful conversation follows and they kiss. It then shows Johnny's mother and father are watching the show on TV and see Johnny and Kim kiss. Johnny's mother, seeing how happy her son is, gives in and agrees to accept Kim.
Felicity Jones was cast in the lead role of Kim. Producer Pippa Cross recalled the moment that they first met, "I remember her walking into the room when we were casting and the director Phil Traill looked at me and raised his eyebrows at me and I said: ‘That’s Kim’. It was as simple as that." She was known to the production staff previously following a ten year stint in The Archers and the Royal Court Theatre production of That Face. Jones described her character as a "witty, spirited beast", and cited the collaborative process with Traill as the reason why she took on the role.
Ed Westwick, best known for playing Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl, was cast as Jonny. He took the role for a change of genre, because he liked the idea of playing a "nice guy", and in order to practice his skiing. He said of the film, "It’s a return to that sort of English comedy that I grew up with. It has elements of Richard Curtis and that classic English wit, which is great".
Brooke Shields became attached to the project as Caroline, Jonny's mother, about a month before her shooting began. Shields described herself as "honored" to be working with Bill Nighy who was cast as her on–screen husband, Richard. Comedian Bill Bailey plays Bill, the father of Kim. He was approached by director Phil Traill who used to live nearby to Bailey and took him for a drink down the local pub and was "chuffed" to get the role.
Playing the character of Georgie was Tamsin Egerton, who joined the project because of the quality of the script, in particular the banter between Georgie and Kim, and became attached quite early as she was eager to work with Felicity Jones. She had auditioned a year before filming started and had assumed she hadn't got the part. Her only concern was that Georgie was quite similar to the character she portrayed in St Trinian's and St Trinian's 2.
German Ken Duken met the producers initially at the Berlin International Film Festival, and was cast as the Finn Mikki after being called in to audition. Tara Dakides, a professional snowboarder, portrayed herself in the film. She first became involved in the summer of 2009 and felt "extremely flattered as well as terrified" about playing herself on screen. In addition, Sophia Bush was cast as Chloe, Nicholas Braun as Nigel, and Georgia King as Jules.
Chalet Girl was one of a number of pitches by Tom Williams to producer Harriet Rees at the International Screenwriters' Festival, Cheltenham in 2007. Williams had previously worked at Working Title Films as a script reader, and described himself as sharing their "commercial sensibility". Rees described Chalet Girl as the pitch that stood out, and Williams began to work on a script. The first draft of the script was delivered on Christmas Eve 2007, with a further 123 versions created before shooting would finish. Rees went on to meet Phil Traill in Los Angeles regarding a different project which he decided against but following a phone call from Williams, who Traill knew from their time at Newcastle University, the director was attracted to the Chalet Girl script. First time feature producer Rees teamed up with Pippa Cross, who she described as her "mentor".
A few changes were made to the script during development, including removing a younger brother of the character Kim. Due to budgetary restraints, a number of scenes were dropped or the locations moved. Costume designers had to fly around to meet the actors' availability, including to New York to meet with Ed Westwick and Soho, London with Bill Nighy. Both Nighy and Shields wore some of their own items on screen to save the film's budget, including Shields' engagement ring.
Reconnaissance trips were made to the resort of Méribel and to snowboarding championships in Laax. Traill joked that due to insurance reasons he was only allowed to ski on such recce trips, and so made as many of them as possible. The no-ski ban was extended to himself, Ed Westwick and Joe Geary, the first assistant director, during the early stages of production. It was partially funded by the UK Film Council, who gave it a grant of £800,000, and 10% of the budget was given by the Enterprise Investment Scheme.
Chalet Girl was filmed on location in Sankt Anton am Arlberg, in Tyrol, western Austria over the course of two months. Actor Ed Westwick went into filming as an already accomplished skier, having skied since the age of 12, but wasn't trained on the snowboard, only ever having had one lesson. Felicity Jones had only previously been on dry ski slopes as a child, and had never previously been on a snowboard. She trained for six hours a day for four weeks in order to become proficient enough to film. "I wanted to do as much of the groundwork on the board that Kim does as possible, hence the rigorous training. So, then towards the end I was able to do tiny little jumps." Jones also experienced life as a real chalet girl with staff at Flexiski. Tamsin Egerton signed on having had no experience on the slopes, and spent time with a trainer. Although she became "hooked" on skiing, in the final cut of the film she isn't actually seen skiing but can be seen on the blooper reel falling over on the slopes. Filming had to be stopped at one point, as the mountain had to be evacuated due to a snow storm. The village scenes were filmed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany, including using the interior of a German log cabin to double for a house in west London. The break-up scene was filmed in the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl on the outskirts of Garmisch.
The majority of the cast were English, with Brooke Shields, Sophia Bush and Nicholas Braun being the exceptions. Bill Nighy filmed his scenes over a period of two weeks, and developed a football rivalry with Ed Westwick with the two actors supporting Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. Shields and Braun struck up a friendship during the filming with Shields describing it in interviews as wanting to "adopt him as my brother".
Promotion and release
In order to promote the film, an online campaign was devised that integrated social media into an interactive trailer, where clicking on a "Like" button took viewers to additional features. Martin Talks, chief executive of digital agency Blue Barracuda said of the campaign, "Participation and sharing, such as this, and the convergence of media, like films and the internet, is the future of film making". The British premiere was held at Westfield London on 8 February 2011. Further showings were held across the country to raise money for Comic Relief 2011.
Alex Towers of Trinity News gave the film a negative review saying "limping along from poor set-ups to glaringly obvious conclusions, the film's ninety-seven minutes feels three times as long." Michael Leader for Den of Geek gave the film two stars, describing some of the jokes as "god-awful", and found that the film "overstretched" itself but described Felicity Jones as an "absolutely delightful screen presence". Peter Bradshaw also gave the film two stars in a review for The Guardian, describing it as "amiable, silly, feelgood stuff".
Other critics gave the film positive reviews, such as Tim Robey of The Telegraph, who gave the film three stars, describing Ed Westwick as "goofy", but praised the performance of Bill Bailey as "lovably hopeless". Time Out reviewer Dave Calhoun also gave it three stars, describing it as "loud, silly and surprisingly fun", and "corny and proud of it". The same star rating was given by Total Film, where Matthew Leyland described the production values as "tatty", but Felicity Jones as a "natural, likeable everygirl". The Mirror gave the film four stars, Mark Adams saying that the film was a "fun-packed affair" and when writing for Screen Daily saying "it is enjoyable entertainment with no real cinematic pretentions"; he laid particular praise on Felicity Jones saying that it confirms her qualities as a leading lady. Sophie Ivan for Film4 compared Chalet Girl to those from Working Title Films, saying that it was the first British comedy since then that "won't make you want to stick pins in your eyes", and gave three and a half stars.
In the UK in the first week of release, it was the top placed new film with £678,000 taken over the first five days having opened in 381 cinemas. That figure was the lowest for a top placed new film since April 2010 with Whip It. This placed it in fourth place during the first week, behind Rango (£1,045,326), Battle: Los Angeles (£874,265) and Unknown (£775,576).
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