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Marcianne Miller

Downhill

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Downhill

Though it’s freezing on-screen, Downhill is a scorcher of a tale. As the American remake of Sweden’s Force Majeure (2014), it shares a similar trajectory with the Oscar-nominated original. But different creative elements--masterful writing and directing, gorgeous cinematography, A-list lead actors as well as ebullient supporting players—make the new version distinctly American, fresh and exciting. Though desperately sad in many ways, by allowing comic icons to expand their normal parameters, Downhill is remembered, mercifully, with plenty of laughs.

From the U.S., the Stauntons-- Mom, Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld, Veep and more), and Dad, Peter (Will Ferrell, SNL and morel) and their two middle-grade sons – have travelled, at great expense, to spend a week in the Austrian Alps. It’s more awesome than all the publicity brochures--the resort is architecturally stunning, surrounded by sky-kissed mountains, with scrumptious food day and night, and a hotel staff whose customer service leans more to encouraging libidos than lugging luggage.

One morning, among dozens of other skiers, the family is relaxing on a sprawling open-air deck. Suddenly, there’s a thunderous “crack” --and a massive avalanche speeds down the mountain and heads for the deck. Terrified, Billie grabs the boys and buries them in her arms. Equally terrified, Peter leaps up, grabs his cell phone and runs off to save himself.

For agonizing minutes, the screen goes deathly white. Then the snow clears. Everyone has survived. Peter marches back on the deck, as if nothing happened. Billie and the boys stare at him in disbelief – Good Lord – he ran off to save himself and left them to die! He denies it, of course, and proceeds to limp on an aching travail of lies and excuses, which Billie and the boys are not buying.

Scene by scene, with broad strokes and telling details, the writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rush (Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay The Descendants, 2011) unravel an exquisitely layered tale.  Each family member, even the boys, is hiding something. No one sees “family” in the same way. Silence is killing them.

“Every day is all we have!” Peter begs them. But forgiveness doesn’t come quickly--in fact it takes a whole movie. Not until the end will we know if the Stauntons will speed downhill to destruction or if grace, somehow,will  soft-land them to salvation.

Recommendation: see Downhill with friends, so you can discuss it at length – and decide for yourself if the film was painfully true-to-life—or cautiously optimistic.

Rated R for language and some sexual material. Time: 86 minutes.1686799664_DOWNHILL2-shotlookingaway.jpg.036dd738e00f6d6d6b3415bd115dcce9.jpg

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On 2/12/2020 at 5:29 PM, Marcianne Miller said:

Though it’s freezing on-screen, Downhill is a scorcher of a tale.

In the words of the immortal Ron Burgundy, agree to disagree.

Will Ferrell and Zach Woods were terrific, I agree (career-best non-comic role for Ferrell, while Woods shows that he could have a career in dramatic roles if he wants it).  But I only found Louis-Dreyfus intermittently believable, while Miranda Otto was downright awful as Charlotte (such a telling contrast to the thoughtful Charlotte character in the original), and Kristofer Hivju was wasted (again, Force Majeure used his talents so much more effectively).  On the plus side, the ending scene was a clever, thoughtful touch.

But besides those two or three positives, I felt this was inferior in every way to Force Majeure, which I detailed at length in my review: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2020/02/skip-this-downhill-course-and-ski-force-majeure-instead/  


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

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