With the London Olympics just around the corner, it is little surprise that filmmakers are mining the hype and excitement for all it is worth. It’s just a shame that they haven’t managed to concoct a more thrilling and jubilant effort than Fast Girls, a garden variety sports film which rattles through as many cliches as possible right through to the finish line.
The debut feature from Regan Hall follows athlete Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow), a runner who competes locally. When she is offered to come aboard a relay team, it means joining forces with local rival Lisa Temple (Lily James), making for the most uneasy of partnerships. Inevitably, it is putting aside their differences – a tall order – which will allow them to take Gold at the World Championships.
Even for the fairly breezy standards of an inspirational sports film, Fast Girls is completely bereft of nuance, and despite aiming low, still fails to rouse sufficient fanfare for the impending Olympics. Unambitious and taking an overly simplistic trajectory, its diametric opposition of the white, privileged rich girl with loving parents to the mixed race, lower-class Eastender with no caring family in sight is both cynical and lazy in execution. Their verbal sparring is dull, and we know from the outset that they will eventually put their efforts to better use, a facet which is introduced late but actually turns out to be much more interesting.
Trite subplots are also woefully abundant, not limited to Shania’s tricky family predicament, the prohibitive measures that prevent athletes and physiotherapists fraternising – which is completely ignored by film’s end and therefore seems pointlessly deployed in the first place – and Lisa’s own suffering with an overzealous Olympian father, because otherwise she’s just too unlikable for the premise to work.
If their sub-soap opera personal lives are overwritten, most other areas are malnourished and confusing, such as having the mohawk-clad member of the relay team drop out of the pic for 30-or-so minutes as conveniently services the plot. This allows Shania to re-enter the relay team without protest – after having stormed off – when a teammate is injured. Furthermore, the solution to the team’s functionality problem is painfully obvious from the first act, and so the real narrative meat in fact involves one snotty young woman putting nepotism aside and getting over herself.
Also dubious are the film’s technical credits; shoddy editing, employing the ramp-up, ramp-down technique many directors seem overly fond of, reduces the otherwise exciting races to music video excerpts. Indiscriminate abuse of slow motion and a garish dubstep soundtrack don’t help things, nor does the ugly low-fi cinematography, replicating the same humdrum aesthetic applied to just about every film starring Kidulthood actors (Noel Clarke plays the team’s coach).
It’s a genuine shame the script and direction underwhelm, because the acting is for the most part stronger than one might reasonably expect. Crichlow acquits herself admirably in spite of the obstacles thrown her way, though James does play the spoiled brat a little too cartoonish and on-the-nose during the earlier stages.
The climactic race sequence is admittedly exciting, if ostensibly rather cheesy, though those in the full thrall of the Olympic mania might derive some thrills from it. At the end of the day, however, Fast Girls is little more than a dull if mercifully brief promotional feature for the Olympics.
Fast Girls is in cinemas now.