News

In Downhill, Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus hit the slopes and the skids - CNN

In  Downhill,  Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus hit the slopes and the skids - CNN
Entertainment
"Downhill" is an unfortunate title for a film that starts out with an intriguing cast pairing (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell) and premise, before going you know where. The bottom line is a plot intended to make one consider life s big issues merely reminds us it s too short to sit through movies as muddled as this.

Definitely not a comedy -- and indeed, the virtual opposite of a Valentine s Day movie -- the film was adapted from the 2014 Swedish title "Force Majeure" by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, in their directing debut, sharing script credit with Jesse Armstrong (the creator of HBO s "Succession" ).

The story begins with Pete (Ferrell) and Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) on a ski vacation with their two sons in the Austrian Alps. They hit the slopes, and the movie hits the skids.

While there appears to be a degree of tension in the couple s relationship -- and Pete is clearly going through some things thanks to the death of his father months earlier -- the trip is getting along well enough until a scary moment, when an avalanche suddenly strikes.

While Billie sits stunned with the boys, Pete leaps to his feet and runs. Everyone s OK, but that single moment -- his instinctive response to think of himself, not them, during a near-death experience -- becomes a growing source of friction, one that continues to fester the longer it goes unaddressed.

What ensues is a painful stretch of pregnant pauses and uncomfortable silences, in a movie that runs less than 90 minutes but feels much, much longer. (As an aside, "Downhill" joins a list of clunkers that Disney inherited in its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and is being released under the new Searchlight Pictures banner .)

It doesn t help that the few notable supporting characters -- including Miranda Otto as a free-spirited hotel worker with a German war-movie accent -- seem to have parachuted in from a different film, there solely to force the characters into situations that will prompt them to confront and reexamine their choices and lives.

Their shared "Saturday Night Live" comedy chops notwithstanding, Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell are certainly capable of pulling off the drama of a marriage in crisis, and she has one powerful scene in which her rage comes gushing out.

For the most part, though, they re ill-served by the flimsy material, which leaves gaping holes in the characters -- and thus clues to understand them -- that even these earnest performances can t fill.

Pete keeps quoting his late dad -- who was fond of saying "Every day is all we have" -- to explain his upbeat "seize the day" mentality. Yet in his melancholy, he s clearly envious of a younger coworker ("Silicon Valley s" Zach Woods) who arrives at the resort with his girlfriend (Zoe Chao), touting a "no agenda" approach to life that speaks to Pete s dull ache over roads not taken and commitments made.

Still, so what? Middle-age angst is a fertile topic, but "Downhill" doesn t bring anything fresh to the conversation. All it does, really, is make one marvel at how a project that must have looked promising on paper can quickly careen downward -- like an avalanche, only here, in slow motion.
Read more on CNN
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
Entertainment
How about this movie plot for Valentine s Day A family are on vacation atop picturesque slopes in the Alps. Pete and Billie — played by Will Ferrell and Julia...
Entertainment
A “force majeure” is a legal term referring to natural and unavoidable catastrophes that absolve parties from fulfilling any obligations interrupted by said event. That title is a bit more...
Entertainment
The family that skis together can barely stay together in Downhill , a brisk little dramedy of errors set in the aftermath of an avalanche. Pete Will Ferrell...
Entertainment
Can you imagine what it would be like if someone took a popular, beloved movie and churned out an inferior remake in another language Well, you don’t have to, because...
Entertainment
NEW YORK—A documentary on Taylor Swift will kick off the next Sundance Film Festival, where new films including the Will Ferrell Julia Louis Dreyfus remake of the Swedish film “Force Majeure”...