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Downhill (15)

Cast: Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Miranda Otto
Genre: Comedy
Author(s): Nat Faxon, Jesse Armstrong, Jim Rash
Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Release Date: 28/02/2020
Running Time: 86mins
Country: US
Year: 2020

Pete Stanton, his wife Billie and their two children, Finn and Emerson, head for a luxury Austrian skiing resort. One afternoon, a controlled explosion triggers an avalanche, which heads straight for the resort while Pete, Billie and the boys are enjoying lunch on a patio. As the deluge of fast-moving snow hits, Billie instinctively protects Finn and Emerson while Pete runs for cover rather than staying with his family. This moment of cowardice has a profound effect on the family.


 

LondonNet Film Review
Downhill (15)

In 2014, Ruben Ostlund directed the Swedish comedy drama Force Majeure about a picture-perfect family of four, whose lives are torn apart by a brush with death during a skiing holiday. Writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash oversee an unnecessary English language remake, which jettisons most of the discomfort and subtlety of the original in favour of broad humour and a powerhouse performance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a doting wife, who cannot stomach her husband’s refusal to acknowledge his cowardice…

Daniel Kaluuya as Slim and Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen in Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas. Photo: Andre D Wagner. Copyright: 2019 Universal Pictures/Entertainment One. All Rights Reserved.

“I accept your version of the truth. Why can’t you accept mine?” he meekly counters, played with trademark cluelessness by Will Ferrell. The script, co-written by Jesse Armstrong, slaloms through the same plot markers but frequently ventures off piste for hit-and-miss comic relief. Consequently, Faxon and Rash’s picture introduces a highly sexed resort director (Miranda Otto), who believes she is operating “the Ibiza of ze Alps”, and a handsome ski instructor (Giulio Berruti), who vigorously massages his pupil’s sore calf muscles. Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju, so memorable in the 2014 film, gently carbonates a throwaway cameo as the resort’s safety officer, who meets litigious American threats with icy Scandinavian disdain.

Attorney Billie Stanton (Louis-Dreyfus), husband Pete (Ferrell) and their two sons Finn (Julian Grey) and Emerson (Ammon Jacob Ford) arrive at an Austrian resort for quality family time on the freshly powdered slopes. On the second day, a controlled explosion triggers a spectacular avalanche, which heads straight for a patio where Billie, Pete and the boys are preparing to order a light lunch. As the deluge of tumbling snow hits, Billie instinctively protects Finn and Emerson while Pete grabs his mobile phone and runs for cover.

Once the billowing cloud of white powder dissipates, Pete calmly returns to the table and chooses soup from the menu. Billie’s incredulity fizzes beneath the surface until a late-night drink with Pete’s work colleague Zach (Zach Woods) and his hashtag-obsessed girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao) uncorks the full force of her maternal rage. “It felt like we were gonna die,” she snaps, tears coursing down her face as our toes curl and directors Faxon and Rash crank up the on-screen marital tension a couple of notches.

Downhill is a fitting title for a comedy drama of manners, which fails to conjure the same gleefully ruffled emotions and pervading anxiety as Force Majeure. Cartoonish European stereotypes are distracting and the deliciously unsettling conclusion to Ostlund’s vastly superior picture has been replaced with a neat and tidy line in the snow. However, Faxon and Rash’s jaunt doesn’t completely wipe out. Louis-Dreyfus reaffirms her rare ability to oscillate between pathos and playfulness in the blink of a tear-filled eye while Ferrell essays another pitiable, socially awkward oaf from his vast repertoire.

– Sarah Lee

 


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