The Hollywood remake of the superior 'Force Majeure' crashes in the Valentine's Day weekend
Did you watch “Marriage Story” and think, you know, what this movie really needs is some laughs? Then I’ve got the movie for you!
“Downhill” is a comedy-drama based on the (superior) international film “Force Majeure,” although it’s lead actors will definitely leave more of an impression that this is a full-on comedy. In the sense that it’s way funnier than “Marriage Story,” it is, but you can end that expectation here.
Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell) are American parents on a European ski vacation with their two sons.
Early in their visit to high-end ski resort in the Alps, they’re having lunch on the deck of a restaurant when a controlled avalanche leaves them shaken.
As a wall of snow bears down, Pete’s fight-or-flight mode kicks in. In a moment of panic, he grabs his phone and runs away, leaving Billie and the kids behind.
When the powder settles, he returns sheepishly as though nothing happened. The look in Billie’s eyes says otherwise.
This adds a thick layer of tension to the rest of the trip, from family interactions to a visit from Pete’s colleague (Zach Woods of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and his free-spirited, hashtag-loving girlfriend (Zoë Chao).
“Downhill” directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have an unenviable balancing act here.
There are moments when the drama really hits on an authentic story, touching on the challenges of marriage and parenthood.
And while it’s nowhere close to a laugh riot, there are moments of solid comedic delivery (particularly when a very European resort director played by Miranda Otto pops up).
But the challenge here is seldom full overcome, and “Downhill” suffers greatly from shifting tones to a point where the movie can never quite decide what it wants to be.
The highlight is the performance by Louis-Dreyfus as a loving mom who’s trying to keep her own feelings under control for the sake of, well, everyone but herself. Her dramatic chops are impressive.
Ferrell also shows some of the dramatic prowess he’s hinted at in movies like “Stranger Than Fiction,” although he’s clearly more comfortable when he’s going for laughs as the Ferrell we all know, with an overtone of Chevy Chase in the “National Lampoon” movies.
Flawed as it is, “Downhill” at least aspires to telling an honest story of married life, but I’m not sure I’d make it my Valentine movie pick.