I spent last weekend with my family, which naturally necessitates a ”jolly family activity” that we could all enjoy. A trip to the cinema was suggested. Excellent! A chance to impose my well-honed cine-snobbery on my nearest and dearest. Perhaps we could catch the latest study in bleak socio-realism from the Dardenne brothers The Kid With A Bike, or maybe Cannes critical darling Polisse? Mum spots something in the local listings. “Rock of Ages?” My heart sinks. The thought of an obnoxiously naff Tom Cruise/Russell Brand musical valiantly attempting to destroy the last measly vestiges of rock’n'roll gives me a violent Vietnam-style flashback of the horrors of Mamma Mia. NEVER FORGET.
So an approximate compromise was reached, and we lumped for a film with the asburdly literal title of Fast Girls, a new Britflick in which – suppress your surprise – Girls are Fast. Hopping on the juggernautian London 2012 bandwagon, Regan Hall’s debut feature depicts an intrepid female sprint relay team team up to go for gold at the Olympics (sorry, ‘World Athletic Championships’ – the Olympic corporate overlords stepped in at the last minute to maintain brand assimilation).
This being a sports movie, there were few surprises. As decreed in ancient times by the God of Sports Movies, so it ever shall be: protagonist overcomes adversity to win the day by learning the value of friendship and teamwork, in 90 minutes. And with characters so broadly painted they must have used a roller: Plucky Working Class Underdog, Bitchy Spoilt Middle Class Rival, Controlling Middle Class Father Who Lives Out His Unrealised Dreams Through His Daughter, Hunky Blonde Love Interest With Implausibly Chiselled Jawline… Seriously, somebody should patent these tropes and live off the royalties.
Still, despite being more predictable than the sunrise, Fast Girls is, to quote my mother, “very watchable”. Decently shot, it’s pacy and fun, with a well-chosen soundtrack. Lenora Crichlow as Plucky Working Class Underdog and Rupert Graves as Controlling Middle Class Father stand out. The only serious weak link was Noel Clarke as the relay coach, who as co-writer has given himself some horrible dialogue; the loftiest words of motivation he can muster to the Fast Girls are “go fast and beat the others!” (I’m only paraphrasing very slightly.)
Most importantly, nobody in the Nugent family hated it – not even me – and it was as jolly as any activity our unit could agree on. Even Dad managed to stay awake long enough to witness the Jonathan Edwards cameo, and we were all cheered by the presence of “Linford”, a comic-relief dog of the same breed as our own family pooch (border terrier, since you ask). If there has to be Chariots of Fire: London 2012 Edition, then this is a perfectly serviceable fit. And at least we didn’t have to watch Tom Cruise and Russell Brand dicking about in leotards. Small mercies!