Netflix Instant Files: Fast Girls

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lisa vs. shania

Lisa vs. Shania

Fast Girls, a recent arrival on Netflix Instant, is another “watch it for the cast” flick.  It stars Lenora Crichlow, aka Annie from Being Human, and is co-written and co-starring Doctor Who’s Noel Clarke (Mickey).  Merlin’s Bradley James and Sherlock’s Rupert Graves round out the cast, and there’s even an appearance by Philip Davis, known as that creepy seer and creepier serial killer from Doctor Who and Sherlock, respectively (he also showed up for about 5 minutes in a season 4 Merlin episode).

As far as nerd cred goes, Fast Girls might have even more of it than Decoy Bride, except I’m not sure anything can top actually having The Doctor in your cast.  Also, Decoy Bride is better than Fast Girls, because even though I didn’t really buy into its romance, it was still a funny movie with strong performances.

Everyone plays their part well enough in Fast Girls, but it’s kind of just a forgettable film.  So, why am I featuring it here?  Because if you’re like me, and reading the cast list was enough to get you interested, I want you to know what you’re getting into.  I don’t regret that I watched it, but I’m glad I didn’t pay anything for it, either.

Crichlow plays Shania, an estate girl with big dreams.  She’s a talented sprinter, and she’s been training with former runner Brian (Davis), to raise her speeds enough to qualify for a spot on the world championship team (and thus get outta  Dodge).  It’s a little weird that the most supportive person in Shania’s life is an older guy like Brian, who hangs around a track, has a little dog, and appears to have an office in a storage crate.  But that tells you everything you need to know about Shania’s family and friends.

fellow athletes

Meeting fellow athletes.

Shania’s life is contrasted with that of Lisa Temple’s (Lily James), a pretty young blonde girl living in a nice house with a big bedroom full of trophies.  She’s had the advantage from the beginning; her father (played by Graves) was a famous track athlete in his day, and his position affords her every privilege.  But her father’s also putting immense pressure on her to live up to his legacy; he even gives her his Olympic gold medal as a memento, the meaning of the gesture clear.

The two meet at a qualifying match for the World Championships.  Lisa’s already on the team, but she resents Shania for coming out of nowhere and stealing the last spot from her friend Sarah.  Shania takes enough crap at home from her inattentive sister and her (sister’s) good-for-nothing boyfriend, that she doesn’t put up with any from Lisa.  The two can’t agree on anything, which is problematic when Tommy (Clarke), the coach for the women’s relay, persuades Shania to join the team.

You can guess where the plot goes from here.  I don’t really need to describe it, and I won’t do so any further because that’s basically all there is to the story.  Even the romance feels like an afterthought.  Bradley James pretties up the corners of multiple scenes with his shiny hair.  His character, Carl, the team’s physical therapist, has a few nice enough moments with Shania.  But their romance doesn’t really develop or go anywhere; their kiss at the end is more of a celebration than a promise.

shania and carl

Bradley James is pretty. That’s basically the point of his character.

Still, Fast Girls is a serviceable enough movie, particularly when delivered with such ease on Netflix Instant.  And, although I didn’t get that into the film, there are a couple things about it that I really liked.

I liked what the writers did with Shania’s character; she’s a very flawed heroine.  Her faults aren’t simple fluffy ones like that she tries too hard, cares too much, or is dorky or klutzy.  She makes bad decisions sometimes, ones that affect others as much as her.  She stays up drinking and partying the night before she has a race, showing up to the track hung over.  She can’t control her temper and gets into physical fights with Lisa.

We don’t agree with some of the decisions Shania makes, don’t understand why she would jeopardize everything for which she’s worked so hard for petty reasons.  She has real flaws, ones that make sense for her character.  She is the lone, responsible member of her family, but that’s really only in comparison to her sister.  She’s not a saint, and at times not even a nice person.  The feud between her and Lisa is believable as well; they don’t go over-the-top to thwart the other, and once in a while they almost get along.  When the time comes, they’re motivated to resolve their differences for believable reasons.


Cue the Queen music now.

In addition, the film passes both versions of the Bechdel test (whether there is more than one non-white non-male character who has at least one conversation with another non-white non-male character that isn’t about a white man).  So, it really sucks that overall the movie isn’t really doing anything that interesting. I don’t need all of my films, especially my romantic comedies (not that I really think Fast Girls is supposed to be a romcom; it’s more of a character sports movie like Bend It Like Beckham), to be that original, but I need there to be something that reaches out and grabs me.

Though I really, really wish that was the case, this movie just didn’t have that.  But if you want to see a bunch of actors you like in a Bechdels-passing, pleasant-if-forgettable movie for little expense or trouble, then Fast Girls is worth your time.