Starring: Will Ferrell, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Miranda Otto
Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Running Time: 86 mins
Downhill is an American film about a married couple who, after narrowly escaping an avalanche while on a skiing holiday, begin to see their relationship fall apart.
The Hollywood remake of one of the best films of the last decade, Force Majeure, Downhill is a desperately disappointingly watch at times. Not only does it fail to live up to the brilliance of the original film, but it misses the mark with its own ideas about marriage, family and individuality, proving frustratingly simplistic all the way through.
The film does gather a little bit of assurance in its latter stages, bolstered by Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ performance which almost single-handedly saves the film from total mediocrity.
But as an exercise in emotional drama, Downhill is a disappointment. As a dark comedy, it’s a disappointment. And as a retelling of one of the most memorable films in recent years, it’s a huge disappointment.
Before going too heavy on the comparisons with Force Majeure, let’s just look at Downhill in and of itself. It’s certainly not a terrible film, impressing with gorgeous visuals, the odd smirk of laughter and a strong turn from Dreyfus.
However, it never manages to find its feet as it tries to juggle both interesting and dark emotional drama with more run-of-the-mill Hollywood humour.
Will Ferrell, for all his best intentions, is miscast in this role, too often relying on active comedic energy that isn’t really what the story requires to be more interesting or entertaining. And that’s a misconception that seems to run through the film as a whole.
With an overly simplistic take on its core themes about relationships and individuality, Downhill is disappointingly dull all the way through, seeming to come up with an answer to its main thematic questions within the first act, and then leaving a fairly random thread hanging for the rest of the film.
Compare that with Force Majeure, a deliriously entertaining dark comedy that bubbles with tension and emotional intensity all the way through, and Downhill is even more disappointing.
From Palme D’Or-winning director Ruben Östlund, Force Majeure is a perfect example of the brilliance of tense and cagey drama that hits close to home, but brought to life with darkly fun-loving energy and a Scandinavian twist.
Force Majeure a film that has everything, working as a comedy, a drama and even a thriller. Downhill, on the other hand, is rushed in its first act, uneventful in its second, and only briefly interesting and original come the finale.
In Downhill, Julia-Louis Dreyfus is the bright spark, giving a performance filled with pent-up rage that gives a brief hint at the provocative drama that Force Majeure hits home with so effectively.
Meanwhile, directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash lack the penetrating energy of Östlund in Force Majeure, also missing the mark with the film’s focal scene that should have been a strong foundation for the story to the finish.
Whereas Östlund made the avalanche that sets off the chain of events a striking moment that sticks in the mind, Faxon and Rash seem to skip over it too quickly, only then raising it again later on when the story requires it. And in that, the drama and tension is never as well-built nor natural as Force Majeure makes it.
Overall, Downhill is a roundly disappointing watch both on its own terms and as a remake of Force Majeure. Its Swedish source material is far, far better in every way, and although this American remake has a few bright sparks, it misses the mark on its comedy and drama throughout. And that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6.