The title says it all.
Well, Valentine’s Day is here and nothing says date night like a trip to the movies! As for what there is to see, Oscar contenders are still playing, and newer movies like Birds of Prey and Sonic the Hedgehog are sure to be a win for date night! However, if you hate your significant other, you can always take them to see Downhill, because if you do, he or she are bound to never call you again.
Downhill is a remake of the acclaimed 2014 Swedish film, Force Majeure. It tells the story of a family of four vacationing at a ski resort. When a controlled avalanche occurs and strikes them while they are eating outdoors, the father runs away in a panic to protect his cell phone, leaving the wife and two kids behind. Though the avalanche results in no physical injuries, the event scars the family emotionally, and the wife starts to doubt her husbands integrity, causing a considerable rift that sets the tone for the rest of their stay.
The directors behind the American remake are Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who previously made the excellent 2013 dramedy, The Way Way Back. Unfortunately, the same passion that went into making that movie does not appear to be present in Downhill, which is such a frustratingly dull and boring cinematic experience. It starts off dull, and as the title would suggest, it is all downhill from there.
The premise has potential to be interesting, but this film does not go into any dark or more mature territory, and plays itself depressingly straight. Scenes just happen with no satisfying payoff, and then move on to the next uninspired moment. It is more than likely that whatever made the original Swedish film work did not translate well for American audiences.
It is a shame, because there are plenty of talented people involved, particularly leads Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The two of them, however, feel out of place in their roles, and the execution of the film’s story does not support their performances in any way. It is one thing to have unlikable characters, but these ones are borderline unwatchable. When not acting like they are hooked on lithium, they ferociously attack each other with no sense of character development or humanity, and the audience is unfortunately stuck with them for most of the movie. The most relatable characters in this film are the couple that visit the family, who have to awkwardly sit and watch the parents have their big fight.
These types of unpleasant characters worked before in films made by the likes of Alexander Payne and Noah Baumbach, because with the film’s writing and performances, audiences were able to understand the characters, as well as their narcissism. This film just decides to throw all of the ingredients for the story into the bowl, but forgets actually make the dish.
Anyone who has seen the trailer would know not to expect any belly laughs, but because the movie has no energy, the few comedic moments the movie does have do not land. All it does is make you wonder why the filmmakers chose to remake this story, aside from possibly getting a ski trip out of it? Also, any hope that the skiing scenes would help break up the monotony of the dialogue scenes should be discarded, because even those scenes are not interesting to watch. The camera angle that are chosen feel flat and lifeless like the easy-level slopes of the ski resort. One would have more fun watching go pro footage from other people’s trips. They would at least look like they are enjoying themselves!
If you are suffering from insomnia, a viewing of Downhill is the proper cure. It has little to offer in terms of storytelling, insight, or humor, and worst of all, fails to justify its own existence. If you are looking for a dark dramedy that deals with broken families and selfishness, stick to films like The Squid and the Whale or What Maisie Knew. The only saving grace of Downhill is that it is mercifully short at just 86 minutes, so at least you’ll be at the bottom before you know it!