If you go into "Downhill" expecting laugh-out-loud comedy, the likes of which both Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have built careers with, you may wind up disappointed. Some movies are better seen knowing nothing about them, but in this case, it's probably best to have some fore-warning and to know what you're stepping into.
"Downhill" is the English-language, American re-make of the 2014 Swedish film, "Force Majeure" (one of the stars of that film, Kristofer Hivju, now famously known as Tormund Giantsbane from HBO's "Game of Thrones," makes a cameo in "Downhill" as the ski resort's manager). It focuses on a family that goes on a ski vacation, when a close-call with an avalanche literally fractures their fragile relationship with one another.
Pete (Ferrell) seems to be a normal dad and a caring husband, but he is still grieving the death of his father, some eight months earlier. When a controlled avalanche gets a little to close, Pete grabs his cell phone and bolts, leaving his wife Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) and two young sons. Nothing ends up happening - the avalanche is harmless - but the damage has been done. In a moment of panic, Pete, left his family. The elephant doesn't leave the room for the remainder of the film.
Billie and Pete silently try to deal with what occurred. Making matters even more awkward, Billie's work associate and free-spirited girlfriend (played with aplomb by "Silicon Valley" co-star, Zach Woods and Zoe Chao) just so happen to be jumping all over Europe, and they stop by the ski resort to hang out with these tortured souls.
Slick and lean at just 86 minutes, Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus are both pitch-perfect, lending their talents to create some lighter and funny moments nestled within several more weighty scenes. Louis-Dreyfus especially, is an underrated dramatic actress who doesn't do a whole lot of feature films...her last was 2013's "Enough Said" opposite the late James Gandolfini, and she is superb now as she was in that film.
"Downhill" is thoughtful and compelling, but if might leave some movie-goers feeling cold, especially if their expectations were to see some extension of "Veep" or "Saturday Night Live"-brand of humor. But if you just lean into it, "Downhill" will take you on a short, exhilarating journey.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes.
"Downhill" is the American remake of the 2014 Swedish film, "Force Majeure."
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto, Zoe Chao, Zach Woods, Julian Grey, Kristofer Hivju.
Directed by Nate Faxon and Jim Rash ("The Way Way Back").
"Downhill" opens in theaters on Friday, February 14th, 2020.
Below you can see the trailer for "Downhill."
...and how it compares to the original film it's based on, "Force Majeure."
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