Downhill

Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell) are vacationing with their two teenage sons at a ski resort in the Alps. One day, during an outdoor lunch, a controlled avalanche sends a wall of snow down toward them, its powder cloud so substantial that all the restaurant patrons fear for their lives. In the panic, Pete flees, saving himself, leaving Billie trapped at the table, protecting their sons. When the snow cloud clears, no one is hurt, but tensions are high as his wife and sons believe he abandoned them in their time of need.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the rest of their vacation does not go well. Pete won’t admit what he did and Billie simmers in (mostly) silence, their interactions steeped in a strong brew of passive aggression. Things really reach a head when Pete’s coworker Zach (Zach Woods) shows up with his bubbly girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao) and their carefree hashtag lifestyle is no match for the simmering stress of their unhappily married friends. Billie tearfully, shakily recounts her brush with death and her husband’s cowardice, while the guests sit in horrified silence. She even gets the boys out of bed to confirm the story when Pete once again denies it. Oooof. The movie is supposed to be uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be so wildly miscast. Louis-Dreyfus is convincingly traumatized while Ferrell is just a buffoon. They’re feel like they’re making two different movies.

Downhill is the unnecessary American remake of the excellent Swedish movie Turist (known in English-speaking countries as Force Majeure). Force Majeure was one of the first films we reviewed here, and one that we talked about for weeks, admiring its cinematography and script, but most of all debating the ethics and themes. We went to a pub afterward, and talked about masculinity, filial duty, gender stereotypes, human instincts, and whether it’s fair to measure your relationship based on a split-second decision. Privately, we all wondered how we might have reacted ourselves.

Coming out of Downhill, all we debated was why Americans feel the need to remake movies and make them worse. Yes, laziness of course. Americans hate subtitles. And reading. But Parasite! Parasite just won Best Picture, and that’s subtitled. Progress? Or wishful thinking? At any rate, Downhill feels unfortunately titled considering how it compares to the heights achieved by its predecessor. If you’re going to bother, skip this one entirely and see Force Majeure. Provoking and invasive, it doesn’t just break the marriage open, it goes inside and pokes around.

20 thoughts on “Downhill

  1. Often Off Topic

    Eek – this doesn’t sound good. I have to admit, I tried to explain the trailer to my husband after I saw it and he was mostly confused and said it sounded terrible. Maybe he’s smarter than I thought!

    Like

    Reply
  2. Sam Simon

    I don’t think that Parasite will change the way Americans feel about movies which are not shot in English. Actually, they will probably remake it!

    By the way, I’ll try to find Force majeure in DVD or Bluray, it sounds worth watching! Thanks!

    Like

    Reply
  3. imogenglad

    Ha, as I started reading your review I thought “that sounds really like a great Nordic film I saw a few years ago”! Force Majeure was an excellent movie – don’t think I’ll be watching this one.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Birgit

    Oh yes, well, it’s Will Ferrell and almost all his films are dumb. I laugh and enjoy them, guilty pleasure, but they are not good films just funny..if you like him. I will wait u til it comes to TV

    Like

    Reply
  5. Christopher

    I’ll skip the remake and go straight to the original.
    And I’d rather watch a subtitled film than a remake or, worse, a dubbed version, but I find subtitle placement very frustrating. On the big screen it’s okay, but when films are transferred to a smaller format they’re often letterboxed–which is great, but the subtitles too often remain in-picture. To whomever places the subtitles: there’s a big block of black space down there. Use it.

    Like

    Reply
  6. Invisibly Me

    I’d heard of Force Majeure but not seen it for myself. Just checked out your review for that one, wouldn’t mind giving it a watch. When I see Ferrell though I instantly think comedy, likely not all that funny, and where everything goes rather Pete Tong, so I didn’t have high hopes for Downhill either. xx

    Like

    Reply
  7. Liz A.

    I don’t get the whole remaking good foreign films either. Hollywood expects us to be stupid, so they dumb the movies down. Sigh. It’s an interesting premise, but if I ever see it, I’ll see the original.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  8. Widdershins

    Will skip the remake – will try and find the original … thanks for the recommendation. 😀 … not sure what I’d do in that sort of situation either … thinksdeeplybutswiftly … these are ‘probably-s but not certainties … when I was young it would’ve been ‘me first’ … late 20’s,30’s,40’s – all the tribe/family/pack or none at all …and now? … I’ve fought so hard to live this long … I’d do all I could to help others, but when it came right down to it … l’d put myself first … phew, it took a long time to type those last four words … 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  9. msjadeli

    100% in agreement with unnecessary remake and why American filmmakers try to remake perfectly good movies. That said, I didn’t care for Force Majeure at all as it was too mean-spirited for my taste. Other Americanized remakes that never should have been include “Shall We Dance” (the original Japanese movie of the same name was excellent!) and “Let me in” (the Swedish “Let the Right One In” was perfect.)

    Like

    Reply
  10. J.

    Mnah. The good ol’ unnecessary remake, huh? I’ll likely pass.

    Also, you just know there will be a remake of Parasite in about 10 years or so.

    Like

    Reply
  11. selizabryangmailcom

    So many people can’t stand Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Jack Black. I adore all three.
    But I DO have my limits. I thought Will was TERRIBLE in the Sherlock Holmes movie (the whole movie was a nightmare) and Adam and Jack can get equally tiring. This sounds like a bad one.
    Will not be seeing it.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s