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Downhill – Movie Review

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Downhill – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Searchlight Pictures

When American filmmakers remake a foreign film, the first question often asked is “why?” After all, if the original film is perfectly watchable with subtitles, doing it again with English-speaking actors seems pointless. In the case of Downhill, directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash had room to play around with the premise of Force Majeure. Ruben Ostlund’s Swedish movie could probably be described as “National Lampoon’s Vacation without the jokes.” Casting talented comedic actors like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell has the potential to bring a sly comic edge to the story. There is promise in the first half, but the second half starts to limp and the result is something a bit uneven.

This is a film that really belongs to Louis-Dreyfus. Ferrell does what is required for the role of Pete the husband and he’s fine enough. However, Louis-Dreyfus really sells the annoyance and anger at Pete’s actions when he runs off during an avalanche. She’s an actress who especially knows how to use her eyes to convey the emotions her character is feeling. Some of the funnier moments in Downhill come more from her facial expressions than the lines she’s given, though she sells those as well. She really understands the tone of the picture and the balance of comedy and drama.

Kristofer Hivju, who was in Force Majeure, pops up in a brief cameo and also gets a few laughs. Faxon and Rash also have fun with contrasting a children’s ski park with the more high-class resort the family is staying in. However, there is only so long one can take the bickering between the couples. The film runs a short 86 minutes and does feel a little stretched out. Curiously, where the film begins to get less interesting is at the same point when Force Majeure became a bit messy in its plotting. It takes a careful hand to handle characters who become more miserable as the story plays on.

For a good chunk of Downhill, Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell are separated, which is a shame due to the strongest scenes coming from their interactions. Despite the length of the movie, it strangely feels longwinded and you just want it to go to the expected conclusion. Faxon and Rash do change the ending for their version, although it’s a climax that lacks much punch. Someone who does deserve credit is director of photography Danny Cohen, who does a beautiful job of filming the snowy Alps. He also makes good use of the spaces within the ski resort and its suites.

Downhill isn’t bad on its own and will make for interesting comparisons with those who have seen Force Majeure. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash do have an understanding of the material and attempt to spice it up. The result does improve on a few key areas, mainly the humour department. Where the film really shines is in Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s performance Now that Veep has finished its run, it will be great to see her in more movies as she is a genuine comedic and acting talent. It does become funny thinking how the movie would play out, if Jason Alexander played the husband instead.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison