Some of you might deem this rather a questionable post.
The respected opinion to hold about Chalet Girl is that it’s absolutely rubbish – see this rather acerbic review in the Spectator, for instance. And, in any case, this is EmilyBooks, not EmilyFilms, so who am I to write about films? And trashy ones, at that. And, if that wasn’t enough already, this post is already outdated – Chalet Girl has been out now for several weeks (I saw it almost a month ago), this is far too late for a review.
But I seem to have had so many conversations that end up with a friend saying words to the effect of, ‘You’ve actually seen Chalet Girl? You’re joking. You can’t have enjoyed it! It’s supposed to be terrible.’
And, while I was defending my point of view the other day, a friend was so incredulous at my holding the film in such high esteem that she asked if I’d written a blog about it. So I thought perhaps I should.
Let it be known that I loved Chalet Girl.
I went into the cinema wanting to see a trashy British Rom-Com, and that was exactly what I got. Within about fifteen minutes of screen time, it was obvious exactly what was going to happen:
- Felicity Jones and Ed Westwick would fall in love
- Felicity Jones and Tamsin Egerton (the really posh one) would make friends
- Felicity Jones would turn out to be unbelievably good at snowboarding, thanks to her past as a champion child skateboarder, and would probably win the big snowboarding competition
There are a few little twists, little glitches that prevent the curve of the plot from being perfectly smooth, but it is never pushed too far off course. And this doesn’t matter at all, it just makes for a blissfully comforting experience. Each time Felicity and Ed have a little flirt with each other, it conjures a little warm glow in one’s tummy.
And it is marvellously funny. What could be funnier than seeing Bill Bailey, unable to work the microwave, lick frozen lasagne as a giant lolly? Or Felicity Jones pouring tea on the crotch of a lecherous older man? Granted, it’s at the slapstick end of the comedy scale, but what’s wrong with that? The film never pretends to aspire to something intellectual.
Perhaps the reason it’s met with a rather adverse critical reception is down to no more than intellectual snobbery, which is a revolting habit. I often slip into the evil clutches of intellectual snobbery when at work in the bookshop. Someone asks for a recommendation, I suggest a brilliant book, they say they want something more ‘superficial’, or ‘more like chick lit’ or ‘easier’. It’s hard to not feel slight despair, as the book that you have adored is rejected in favour of Katie Fforde or Daisy Goodwin or Marian Keyes. Urgh…
But it really is unattractive to be such a snob. Why shouldn’t someone prefer to read chick lit? Why should they feel pressured to read a classic, or modern literature or something more highbrow? And, ever since reading One Day, I realised that a book can be trashy and very funny and very good too.
So long as there are no pretences about it, I can’t see that there’s really anything wrong with lowbrow entertainment. Sometimes one wants to engage one’s brain on a slightly higher plane, sometimes one wants to be taken along for an easy, enjoyable ride. The first isn’t automatically better than the second. Being able to deliver an easy, enjoyable ride must be just as difficult as a writer, or director, as being able to deliver an intellectual challenge.
So yes, I thought Chalet Girl was ninety minutes of entertainment bliss. I laughed and I cried, and I came out feeling wonderful. I would put it up there in the canon with Four Weddings and A Funeral and Clueless. In fact, I think I’m going to go and see it again.