The Chalet Girl

Author: Tom Williams
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Sports
Storyline: 7
Dialogue: 8
Characterization: 7
Writer’s Potential: 7

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Logline:

A working-class skateboarding champion is forced to take a servant job at an Alpine resort, where she discovers snowboarding.

Synopsis:

Displaying remarkable skill and fearlessness, KIM MATTHEWS, 16, wins a huge Essex skateboarding competition, to the excitement of her parents, BILL and THEA (both 40s). Three years later, things have changed: Kim works a demeaning job at a dingy fast-food joint to help support her father. Thea was killed in a car accident some time earlier, leaving Bill crippled with grief and depression. Bill and Kim are struggling to keep up with influx of bills. When Kim hears about a job working for catering agencies — which pay well for minimal work — she starts interviewing with these agencies. Unfortunately, she lacks the right “posh” breeding to get hired. After striking out at three different agencies and groveling to the manager of her fast-food joint for more hours, Kim lashes out at her fourth interviewer. The interviewer is impressed with Kim’s honesty and insight, but it still doesn’t land her the job — until the interviewer gets an emergency call but has nobody to fill the vacancy.

Kim turns down the job, working as a chalet girl for a wealthy family vacationing in the dark. She’s afraid of leaving Bill alone for four months. Her best friend, TRACE, tells Kim about the snowboarding she can get involved with. After placing some fresh flowers on the road where Thea was killed, Kim decides to take the chalet girl job. A montage follows, as Kim attempts to train Bill on cooking and cleaning. When that fails, she sets up weekly grocery deliveries and automatic online payments for all their bills. Still reluctant, Kim leaves for St. Anton Bahnhof, a village nestled in Tyrol, Austria. Kim gets off the train, where GEORGIE (21) waits. She’s stunned and disappointed by Kim’s obvious lack of breeding — she’s amazed by the sight of the mountains and the luxury of the chalet’s servant quarters. Georgie is abrasive, but Kim gives as good as she gets, leading to something close to mutual respect. Shortly after her arrival, Kim attempts to snowboard — using her skateboard. She immediately wipes out and is laughed at by a bunch of ski school children. Georgie shows Kim the gourmet kitchen. The fancy food is new to Kim, but she’s a natural cook, to Georgie’s annoyance. They go to the local airfield just in time for the family’s plane to land. The family’s pompous Austrian ski guide, BERNHARD, scoffs at the girls’ tardiness. The plane lands, and off come the Madsens: good-natured father RICHARD, unpleasant American mother CAROLINE, handsome son JONNY, Jonny’s girlfriend CHLOE, and Chloe’s brother NIGEL. There’s an immediate spark between Kim and Georgie, in spite of Georgie misinforming Kim about how to behave around the family, leading to humiliation. Caroline is immediately horrified by Kim.

At dinner, Georgie forces Kim to stay in the kitchen, not serving anything. Afterward, the family amuse themselves by rubbing each others’ faces with a burnt wine cork. Kim’s baffled. She’s even more baffled when the family trots out Georgie to perform a song with her musical armpits. That night, Georgie gets drunk and fools around with Nigel. The next morning, she won’t wake up. Kim is forced to save the day, whipping up caviar omelettes. Richard and Jonny are impressed, but Kim is shocked when she discovers the cost of the caviar. Free for the day, Kim digs through the chalet’s ski equipment until she finds a real snowboard. She’s horrible, again embarrassing herself in front of the ski school kids. She tries again the next day and goes to the snowpark to test her skill. Almost immediately, she crashes into MIKKI (20), a Finn whose grasp of English is not great. Attracted despite Kim’s rebuffing, Mikki agrees to teach Kim how to snowboard. Mikki encourages Kim to enter Ticket to Ride, Tyrol’s biggest snowboarding competition. Kim laughs off the suggestion, but Mikki thinks she might be good enough in three months.

Caroline gives Jonny an engagement ring that belonged to Richard’s mother. Kim arrives for dinner, dressed up to join the family at the table, but Caroline ridicules her apparel. Jonny is suitably impressed, however. Kim struggles to open a champagne bottle and ends up firing the cork into her nose. Jonny helps her tend to the wound with an ice pack and some champagne. Kim confesses to being overwhelmed by the surroundings. Jonny is understanding. The family returns home for the week. Richard offers Kim a free lift pass and a 500 euro tip. Kim’s thrilled. A montage follows, as time passes and Mikki trains Kim. Georgie runs into Mikki, whom she knows and is attracted to (but she won’t admit it). Kim meets TARA, an expert snowboarder, who gives Kim some tips. She sends Kim to rent some newer equipment from WILLY, an affable German. Kim mentions Tara’s name and gets a steep discount on her rental. Reluctant about spending the money on this instead of bills, Kim ultimately decides to go for it. The montage continues, as Kim gets better at snowboarding and becomes intensely focused on mastering various tricks.

Georgie finds out it’s Kim’s birthday and drags her out to the village to celebrate with Mikki, Willy, and others. Kim has a bit too much to drink and ends up naked in a hot tub — just as the Jonny, Chloe, and Nigel make a surprise reappearance. Jonny is surprisingly kind-hearted about the affair, asking only to be invited the next time Kim has a birthday party. Jonny convinces Bernhard to keep quiet about it. The next day, Kim calls Bill, who’s struggling at home alone. She goes skiing/snowboarding with Georgie, Jonny, Nigel, and Chloe. The flirting between Kim and Jonny intensifies on the slopes, making Chloe jealous. In an attempt to one-up Kim, Chloe ends up breaking her leg. Jonny takes her back to London. The next day, Tara watches Kim at the snowpark and encourages her to sing up for Ticket to Ride. Kim considers it.

Mikki wants Kim to incorporate more jumps into her routine, because air gets bigger points than tricks. Kim goes for it, but as she makes the leap, she has a post-traumatic stress reaction, reliving her mother’s car accident, and is forced to bail before she seriously injures herself. Mikki decides to help Kim push through it — by getting her drunk. It doesn’t work, and Kim ends up with a cut-up face and an arm in a sling. Bill calls, but she won’t talk to him. At home, Bill flirts with LEXI, the grocery delivery clerk. Lexi’s stunned by the disarray the house has become. She forces him to clean the place up. Days later, Kim is feeling better but refuses to continue training. Georgie wonders why, but Kim won’t answer. Jonny returns with Richard and a number of high-powered British executives, all of whom sexually harass Kim and Georgie with alarming frequency. Wanting the tips, the girls take it with gentle good humor. The group goes for a picnic in the backcountry. When Jonny tries to get the others to calm down, Richard takes him aside and reminds him of how important these men are. After awhile, Jonny simply can’t take it anymore — he yells at the others, who quiet down. Jonny and Kim decide to stay behind while the others live. He skis while she snowboards. Kim opens up to Jonny about her mother and her problems, and when Jonny tries to relate, she mocks him for being a wealthy kid with no real problems. The date ends with awkward silence.

Jonny hires Kim to be his snowboarding instructor. He wins her over again. They end up falling on each other and kiss. Bernhard observes this from a ski lift. When Jonny tries to cajole Kim into entering the tournament, Kim gets suspicious and realizes Georgie is behind it. She confronts her, angrily, then goes to the bar to drink, alone. Outside the bar, Jonny waits. He apologizes and confesses that he’s falling in love with her. They sleep together. The following morning, Caroline bursts into Jonny’s room and finds Kim in the shower, singing “Sex on Fire.” Kim realizes that, back in London, Jonny proposed to Chloe. Enraged, she storms away — but she’s more pissed at Georgie for not telling her. Kim packs her things, returns her rented snowboarding equipment, and boards a train back to Essex. She tells Bill about the snowboarding competition. Even he encourages her to go, saying they can manage another week. He tells her it’s what Thea would have wanted, and that’s what convinces her. She returns to St. Anton Bahnof.

Mikki continues training Kim. She still can’t get big air. She tries for it during the qualifying event and ends up crashing — landing her in the 21st slot, when only the first 20 get to compete. Kim and Georgie make up. Meanwhile, at Jonny’s engagement party, he breaks up with Chloe. She’s enraged, causing a big scene. Upset and unable to sleep, Kim hits the slopes in the middle of the night. She comes upon Willy, who advises her to ride for herself — not the competition, not her parents, nobody but herself. Bill pays a tearful visit to Thea’s grave, letting her know that Kim has regained her fearlessness, and he’s decided to follow her lead — by inviting Lexi over for dinner. Kim learns that Jonny and Chloe broke up.

Kim visits Tara and Willy before the competition. Tara’s in extreme pain, the result of an old back injury. Willy injects cortisone into the area. Kim wishes Tara luck, and Tara makes the decision to take herself out of the tournament, which gives Kim — the first reserve — the opportunity to compete. Kim balks, but Tara and Willy are insistent. Kim goes out, ignoring the competition, ignoring the fear and the PTSD, and just boards for the pure joy — and wins the competition, which includes a 5000 euro check. Sponsors, agents, and the press surround her immediately. Georgie and Mikki — who announces he’s her agent — come to Kim’s aid amid the chaos. Jonny arrives to congratulate her, but Kim’s still pissed — but she’s fallen enough in love with Jonny to forgive him. They kiss.

Comments:

The Chalet Girl is a straightforward romantic comedy in the vein of Whip It. It’s not revolutionary, but it is funny and likable. The story has some redundant moments in its snowboarding training and the way the two romantic leads circling each other, but overall, it’s solid and engaging. As written, it merits a consider.

The first act does a nice job of setting a humorous tone amid grim circumstances, establishing the high point of Kim’s life and following it up with her depressing present-day circumstances. It also does a great job of establishing the setting, the many supporting characters, the core conflicts, and — most importantly — developing Kim’s character. While the writer does all this heavy lifting with seemingly minimal effort, he also keeps the script witty and entertaining.

The second act is where the redundancies creep into the story: too many training montages, too many repetitive scenes showing Kim’s fear, and too many scenes depicting the unrequited attraction between Kim and Jonny. Although the writer may get redundant, he doesn’t linger — the script moves quickly enough that the repetitive scenes are mildly annoying rather than frustratingly tedious.

However, the writer puts so much emphasis on Kim’s fear and post-traumatic stress reaction in the second act that it’s sort of a cheat that she gets over it so easily in the third act. She doesn’t struggle at all with it in the final competition, making her first-place win feel a little more unearned (dramatically) than it should. On the other hand, the writer provides satisfying resolutions to the many other dangling plot threads in the third act. As with the redundancies in the second act, Kim’s rapid, effortless win could be much worse than it is — but it could also be better.

Kim is a particularly strong, empathetic character. As the story’s protagonist, the consistent, three-dimensional portrayal allows some of the more farfetched moments (like attempting to snowboard with an actual, wheeled skateboard) seem both believable and funny. Jonny is a bit bland, but the writer does a really nice job at showing how much he cares for Chloe without actually loving her, which allows something as absurd as his engagement to her to feel like more than a plot contrivance.

The script is loaded with stock supporting characters, but the writer manages to imbue each of them with unexpected qualities that make them a little more interesting. The only exception to this is Caroline, who spends the entire script as shallow and ruthlessly evil. The writer never takes the time to humanize her. On the other hand, he makes even tiny roles like Chloe and even Lexi the grocery clerk feel like nuanced, real people. Caroline aside, the writer’s attention to the characters works to make the usual romantic comedy tropes feel fresh or, at least, like real people doing things for believable reasons.

A strong actress playing Kim, suspenseful snowboarding sequences, and judicious editing in the second act will make this into a solid, winning romantic comedy.

Posted by D. B. Bates on January 28, 2010 11:54 AM