Weak Layers

Weak Layers Review: A Ski Comedy That Fails To Carve Deep

A fun comedy with heart, but a murky plot.

Ski movies can be a hard sell to the general population. The sport is already niche enough and its fan base, however mighty, doesn’t quite compare to the mountains they traverse. Weak Layers is a comedic take on this long-lived genre, and the film gamely attempts to widen its appeal beyond ski enthusiasts towards the general appeal of what they term ‘the nobodies,’ or normal people. Despite a heartwarming message at its core, the film loses its way in trying to maintain that precarious balance, straying into the unnecessary rom-com territory and cringe comedy when its strength was its quirky, awkward underdog story.

Anybody watching the comedy will instantly get a taste of the life of a ski bum…sorry, an “enthusiast”. Set in a vibrant town filled with partiers, ridiculous personalities, and a wide range of travellers, Weak Layers accurately portrays a slightly exaggerated ski town or village. We’re introduced to this life through our protagonist, Cleo Brown (Katie Burrell), and her two younger roommates. Cleo is a 30-year-old aspiring adventure filmmaker stuck in a depressing rut. After they’re evicted, Cleo’s video of a party catches enough attention to get her an invite into Hot Lapse, an infamous ski doc competition. Winning the prestigious contest would certainly solve their housing crisis and kick her life into high gear. She gets caught up in the intense professional world and jumps into a steamy relationship with her competitor, Gabe Paul (Evan Jonigkeit). After a whirlwind of successes and failures, Cleo realizes what is most important to her: her community. She learns that the passion of a ski town is driven by the nobodies, regardless of age, status, job, or skier type; it’s the neighbours and friends that really matter.

The main storyline following Cleo’s filmmaking journey in Hot Lapse is quite powerful. It’s an interesting journey about an underdog entering a competition alongside the top canines. Woven beautifully throughout is an exploration of sexism within this seasoned filmmaking community, which adds valuable depth to the story without overtly distracting from its heart. She is determined to make money for herself and her roommates, partially to find a house and partially to prove she can. Although a strong main thread, it falls into the cliched pitfall of an overly distracting romance subplot. Though the love story, filled with honest and funny interactions, entertains, it also forces the film’s energy to switch from an adrenaline-filled ski competition to a slower, recognizable romantic framework. Straying from the comfort of the comedic, it begins to lean more towards a strange-feeling rom-com and seems to completely forget the kind of film it set out to be in the first place. Dedicating its final scenes to this romance takes away from the more interesting, more powerful message driving the film. This competition between the two stories leads to clunky pacing and rhythm. Rather than complementing each other, they seem to compete for attention and cause an obvious disconnect within a movie meant to unite.

The quirky humour found here has its charm, and the movie lands many solid laughs. Most of those stem from Cleo, as comedian and director Katie Burrell plumbs the depths of her humorous normalcy. Unfortunately when it aims for awkward or cringe comedy, it fails and crashes and burns in a big way. The first introduction to Cleo’s ex-boyfriend particularly struggles to find its way between watchable and unwatchable. 

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Fortunately, the ski bums we follow throughout are entertaining and unique, and make up for some of the style stumbles. Burrell showcases her comedic chops, providing much of the film’s humour through her quick wit, as the film explores her relatability–rightly assuming we can understand her feeling of being stuck in life. Her chemistry with love-interest Gabe is undeniable and natural, combining some honest conversations with hearty laughs, despite the storyline’s pacing issues. But the real highlight of the film comes in scenes where the three roommates are together. Tina (Chelsea Conwright) and Lucy (Jadyn Wong) mesh beautifully with Cleo. These are youngsters who just want to get out there and live. It’s a wonderful contrast between the older, frustrated filmmaker, and the typical image of a partying ski bum. The trio’s chemistry helps guide audiences through the occasional inflated conflict and truly connects us to this fictional community. 

The best part of the film is the one of utmost importance: its message. The ending, surprising but inevitable, nails the heartwarming core of the film, successfully capturing the main experience of the ski town and its vast community. Its conclusion will leave you ruminating on the under-appreciated connections and people within your community.

Despite occasionally clumsy storytelling and some cringe comedic timing, Weak Layers will certainly entertain and leave you with a glow from its overall positive message. As an ode to ski towns and tight-knit communities everywhere, Weak Layers doesn’t quite stick the landing but it still manages to carve a slice of that ski-bum life with a side of awkward laughter. 

Weak Layers is in theatres now. It releases digitally on Amazon Prime and Apple TV on February 6. 

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