Movie Rundowns: "Fast Girls"
Jason Halpin | On 24, Jul 2013
On the eve of the London Anniversary Games, Jason Halpin reflects on two stars in British track and field whose story and legacy should not be forgotten.
For this week’s movie rundown, I chose the 2012 British classic Fast Girls. I know this is WAY overdue as I talked about it on the podcast about a month ago, but please don’t mistake the time it took for any kind of quality in the writing, they are completely unrelated. If you want to check it out it is available on Netflix streaming and I think a full version is on YouTube (the mark of any good movie). I don’t know if I’m intrigued or ashamed that Netflix gave it a 4 star rating based on my preferences.
The movie opens with our main character Shania waking up early and going on a run with clips from I think real track races spliced in with some British rap happening over the scenes. The jog leads to a run down track where her coach and his dog Linford (running reference!). I guess we are starting training by practicing starts. Makes sense, she is a 200 meter runner so starting is important. Oh wait, she’s just going to run a full 200 at race pace. This has become relatively common practice in running movies where they seem to think the only way to train for a race is by running it full speed by yourself (see Across the Tracks).
Anyway, the goal is to run under 23 seconds because that is the standard for the upcoming World Championships. Shania just misses it and she isn’t happy, I would think a world class 200 meter runner would realize running a practice race by yourself and missing your target by a couple tenths is probably not a terrible thing but I’m sure the rest of her workout…Oh that’s it for today.
She gets home and is sharing a small apartment with her Aunt, a couple cousins and her sister, I think they are letting us know that she doesn’t come from the wealthiest of backgrounds. But guess who does? It’s Lisa, our other main character and she doesn’t appear to be poor at all! In fact, it almost seems like these two runners have been brought up in completely different worlds! Apparently Lisa is already a household name and has her spot to worlds clinched. I’m sure these two will get along great.
Just like that it’s race time and the fastest 200 meter runner under 23 seconds will go to the World Championships with Lisa. Shania runs a 22.68 and beats out Lisa fairly easily; people weren’t expecting that, especially Lisa! Shania and her coach are driving home and he informs that he isn’t coming with because he doesn’t think he’s good enough or something like that. Nothing like making your runner change coaches a month or so before the World Championships! Either way she is heading home and gets to tell her family she just qualified for Worlds, this should be a good emotional moment…except that her sister is maybe the worst person alive and responded like Shania just told her she picked up a pizza and there are some leftovers in the fridge. I thought the UK was supposed to care about running.
Shania walks into the training facility for Team GB. Someone asks Lisa who that is and she responds “nobody.” Really? We are going to make Lisa that catty right off the bat?! Shania meets some of the other member of the team and gets asked to join the relay team by the relay coach (I don’t remember his character name in the movie but he was Mickey in a couple seasons of Doctor Who so he will be referred to as Mickey from now on) but she says, “I’m not good with teams.”
It’s a relay! The only team aspect is handing a baton off, there aren’t any plays or teamwork! But Shania is excited and can’t believe she has made it this far. Lisa responds with a solid, “me neither.” I’ve seen comic book villains that were more subtle. Lisa follows that almost immediately with the quote from every reality show ever, “I didn’t come here to make friends.” Well I hope not, because you are a monster.
They start practicing starts, good they are finally doing a regular practice…Dammit they’re racing again! Lisa edges Shania out and gives us another gem, “I just hope we’re all as lucky as you were when we get to worlds.” Thanks for subtlety building that rivalry, Fast Girls!
After practice Shania walks in on Mickey watching the US relay team talking about how fast they are (true) and how perfect their handoffs are (laughably false). All the girls in the relay are throwing a fundraiser for the team and as Shania is getting ready the least supportive sister in the world makes her 3rd appearance in the film to basically tell Shania that she shouldn’t attempt to better herself in any way. Thanks sis! After the pep talk she heads to the black tie affair which seems like a very fancy party…and it just broke out into a nightclub disco. Shania has a few too many drinks and gets into an argument with Lisa who makes her first decent point of the movie, wondering why Shania is getting drunk the day before a meet. Shania, seeming embarrassed and probably realizing Lisa was right this time, leaves the party and is heading home. But she immediately gets invited to another party across the street but says she can’t because she has a meet the next morning. Good for her being responsible. They try once more with a, “Come on!” and that convinces her…well she had to give into that.
Cut to the next day and she shows up late to the meet hung over, runs poorly and pukes after the race while Lisa gives an evil grin that would make Mr. Burns uncomfortable. I think I’m starting to like her because there’s a chance this turns into a horror movie and she’s the killer. Here’s our first attempt at a real relay and it looks like they are doing ok…NO! The exchange between Shania and Lisa goes wrong and they finish last! I’m sure this will end well. Or not, Lisa of course blames Shania immediately and it causes a big uproar and Shania quits the team. She told you she wasn’t good with teams!
A bad day gets worse when she heads home only to find out her aunt is kicking her out of the house because her sister threw a big party and the place got wrecked. Everything’s coming up Millhouse! Shania goes to talk to the worst sister ever where she is told she needs to take her life more seriously. She just qualified for the World Championships!! Are they just making up dialogue for the sister as they go along? What is she talking about? Now over to Lisa and they are trying to plug in a scene to make her seem more human where really she is just desperately after her father’s approval. I’m not buying it, she’s the devil incarnate. Shania, with no other place to go, is sleeping in a supply shed from the opening scene and her old coach finds her and she’s able to convince him to coach her again. Everyone is either a pushover or pure evil in this movie.
Shania goes to see the massage therapist who we will just refer to as, “Boy Band” as he is some sort of hybrid Nick Carter and one of those One Direction guys. But, everyone seems to be in love with this guy including our two main characters (finally something to fight about!) and Shania almost makes out with him but they get interrupted. It’s a good thing too because fraternization with the coaches or trainers is strictly forbidden!
The rest of the relay team is meeting up to go for a night on the town and invite Shania along so this is either ending with bonding or a brawl (I’m hoping for brawl). Three guys start to hit on Lisa which immediately turns into harassment so she walks away. The unruly gentlemen follow her so the girls tell them to piss off and pour their drinks on them. They run out of the club to get away from the crazy guys and they proceed to chase after Team GB…little do they know that these four girls are world class sprinters and they are about to feel completely emasculated. There’s our bonding moment! Lisa actually just said something with no ill will or hatred behind her voice to Shania! Maybe she’s turned a corner…personally I think she’s just coaxing us into a false sense of security before she stabs someone with her spikes.
Queue a mini montage of training where once again they are on the Brad Pitt from Across the Tracks workout regime by running your event as fast as you can by yourself over and over. It’s time for the girls to leave for Worlds and the worst sister ever tried to give us some redemption by wishing Shania luck and hugging her goodbye..that should make up for her being a horrible person her whole life. On the other side we see Lisa’s dad giving her his old gold medal for luck, nice gesture but seems like a lot of pressure.
World Championships time! Both Lisa and Shania run well in the prelims, Shania even PR’ed in the semis and we got a good old fashioned pissed off look from Lisa for it, that’s more like it! We get to the finals and if I had to guess what’s going to happen I’ll say Shania beats out Lisa for a medal which gets Lisa to ask Shania if she will run the relay. So close! Shania ends up in 4th with Lisa a very distraught 5th. And we have a late entry for worst family member ever as Lisa’s dad yells at her, “don’t look weak!” just moments after her race. He’s right; it would be a shame for her to show any emotion after a disappointing performance in the biggest race of her life.
Back in the locker room, Boy Band is consoling Lisa and Shania walks in and gets really upset and runs away. No she didn’t walk in on them sleeping together or even kissing, Lisa was crying about her race and he was consoling her, what a bastard! Regardless, Boy Band tries to chase after but no luck, because she is in fact, a Fast Girl.
Now cutting to the 100m, the best and most decorated runner from Great Britain has pulls up with a hamstring injury halfway through the race, killing her dream of ever winning gold…but wait someone will have to take her place in the 4x100m relay? Who could do it at this short of notice?! You aren’t going to believe this, but Shania (you know that main character?) is going to take the final spot on the relay team!
We start with the semifinal where they have to finish top 4 to make the finals, I feel safe saying that will happen unless this is in fact the worst movie ever. Again they are doing fine until the last handoff and they fall back to 5th and don’t qualify….maybe this is the worst movie ever. Shania and Lisa start arguing about whose fault it is and now they are fighting! How many times do I have to tell you, Shania is not good with teams! But wait! The French get DQ’ed! GB advances! It’s a good thing they didn’t just embarrass themselves and their country on a national stage.
Lisa’s dad and some random British guy want Shania kicked off the team and I guess their word is important because Mickey obliges. When Shania finds out she give gives the, “you can’t do take this away from me!” Yeah! You can’t take away the thing I didn’t want to do to begin with and had to be talked into it as a favor! Boy Band tries to talk to Lisa to convince her father to let Shania back in, bringing up the age old question, what’s more important, winning or hating everyone?
Shania and Lisa talk it out and Lisa says she has to prove she belongs on the team, so they go into a parking garage to practice handoffs. Nope not a park or a track, a parking garage. This is only the second time we have ever seen them practice hand offs; maybe they should have tried this crazy “practicing” thing sooner. Actually they still suck, but Lisa comes to the conclusion that it’s not working because Shania is faster than her so she should run anchor instead…WAIT WHAT?!?! Either she’s planning to bash her in the head from behind with the baton or the car exhaust fumes are getting to her. Nope, just a genuine moment, it almost makes me forget the fact that Shania is about a tenth of a second faster than Lisa in a 200 and wouldn’t matter at all what order they are in. But clearly I’m wrong because it starts working immediately, and a bond is formed.
Lisa completely changes her entire personality and also finally decides to get the guts to talk to her dad and after he starts the conversation by telling her she ran a terrible 200, she tells him, “either you bring Shania back or I quit.” In a surprise non asshole move he gives in and we are going to give Shania one more chance at this whole team thing.
It’s time for the finals and even crappy sister is turning on the TV for the 4×100! We won’t mention that we never saw her watch the 200m where her only sister qualified completely on her own and finished 4th in the entire world, but I guess relay is thicker than blood…or something. And we’re off! Perfect handoffs for the first two legs but we’ve been here before, and the final handoff, like silk!! It’s USA, Jamaica and GB and it’s too close to call, we have a photo finish! And it’s GB! The team with two 200m runners, a long jumper and who lost their fastest runner to injury the previous day just beat the US and Jamaica who had the gold and silver in both the 100m and 200m!! Shania kisses boy band even though it’s against the rules and we get the freeze frame ending with the team posing in front of the GB flag.
In closing, the movie is full of clichés, is very predictable and definitely has some over the top writing in trying to establish some barriers for characters to get over. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching it because of a lot of those reasons. Well that and British accents.