Noel Clarke crafts this superficial but uplifting sports drama about the conflicting personalities of two Great British 200 metre runners as they prepare for the World Championships.
Released in the UK during the summer, in timely fashion to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic Games, Fast Girls focuses on the story of two British 200 metre runners as they prepare for the 2011 World Championships. Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) is from the wrong side of the tracks and has only recently run fast enough to join the British team. She trains at a decrepit recreational ground close to her inner city suburban squalor where she bunks up with her older sister in their auntie’s flat. When Shania is effectively made homeless after her sister’s misdemeanours, she begins to live with her aging amateur coach. Conversely, fellow athlete Lisa Temple (Lily James), on the surface, has it all – a rich family, a lavish home, the best training and facilities. When the two are paired together in Britain’s 200 metre relay team, personalities clash as the two women battle it out to be number one.
You’ve got to give writer and actor Noel Clarke credit for focusing primarily on strong female characters in a genre, particularly in Britain, that has been dominated by men. However, some of that appeal is diluted by the prescribed nature of both the film’s chief convictions and clichéd motivation. Clarke lets rich versus poor, privileged versus underprivileged take centre stage but it is far too clear cut. There is no middle ground, no subtlety. The characters of Shania and Lisa therefore become formulas to be manipulated and the film loses some of its ability to authentically engage with the audience.
Setting itself up as a culture clash between class division in London never genuinely materialises, becoming the backdrop for a conventionally plotted journey towards a championship final. Director Regan Hall’s inexperience comes to the fore as he shows a complete inability to draw nuance from Clarke’s script, operating with clunky set-ups despite the screenwriter’s convincing dialogue. However, Clarke isn’t blameless, as he’s far more comfortable writing bad-girl-done-good Shania than the spoiled middle class bitchiness of Lisa. That leaves Lisa criminally underwritten.
“Director Regan Hall’s inexperience comes to the fore as he shows a complete inability to draw nuance from Clarke’s script, operating with clunky set-ups despite the screenwriter’s convincing dialogue.”
The predictable nature of the protagonists coming to realise their colliding personalities are not as dissimilar as they appear on the surface; that their goals are best achieved by settling those differences is, like the characters themselves, lacking subtlety. It also has a familiarity about it that Hall seems blissfully unaware of; either that or he believes his audience has a very short-term memory. Indeed, that could be the underlying problem as Fast Girls feels better suited to a younger audience that has never witnessed genre classics like Rocky.
Yet, Hall certainly knows how to orchestrate a sports movie finale and Fast Girls pushes the right buttons as it enters the final straight. Undoubtedly Clarke and Hall make the sort of noises that will duly inspire young girls to pursue their sporting dreams even if that means you can smell the ending a mile off. However, despite its flaws its inherent optimism is welcome. And Lenora Crichlow as Shania must be applauded for her strong performance. In addition, a number of memorable scenes, such as the athletes pulling off their high heels on a night out to run away from a group of testosterone-fuelled lager louts is worthy of note as Clarke instils a little humour in proceedings. Fast Girls is therefore a straightforward, relatively superficial sports drama that at least has its heart in the right place.
Directed by: Regan Hall
Written by: Noel Clarke
Starring: Lenora Crichlow, Lily James, Lorraine Burroughs, Dominique Tipper, Lashana Lynch, Bradley James, Noel Clarke, Rupert Graves
Released: 2012 / Genre: Sports Drama / Country: UK / IMDB
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