Adapted from the Swedish film FORCE MAJEURE, DOWNHILL is a master class in acting, with a script so intimate and smart I could also see it being a hit on Broadway. Billie (Louis-Dreyfus), Pete (Ferrell), and their two kids are on a week-long ski vacation in the Austrian Alps. When a controlled avalanche comes a little too close for comfort and Pete leaves his family to fend for themselves, the couple’s relationship is seriously challenged.
It was really incredible to see comedy powerhouses Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell star in a movie together, especially one that not only showcases their comedic skills to great effect, but their dramatic chops as well. This dichotomy between humor and drama is important in a film that asks you to pick sides in a relationship and determine who is ultimately the wrong (and wronged) party. Both actors need to be likable enough from the start that it isn’t easy when you finally pick one over the other. And believe me; you will pick a side.
It’s no secret that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the best actresses of all time, and I thought she was especially great in DOWNHILL. One monologue in particular—detailing her husband’s betrayal during the avalanche—is absolutely gut-wrenching. Dreyfus is so natural and real with her performance. So much so, I forgot I was watching a movie and felt the pain/frustration along with her character Billie. Hell, I began rooting for her in each scene, especially those opposite Ferrell. Remember how I told you the movie would make you pick sides? You better believe I am team Billie/Julia!
While I’m honestly surprised the film is divisive among critics, I can see the obvious criticisms: Why do we need to adapt a Swedish film so lazy English-speakers don’t have to read subtitles? Do we really care about seemingly mundane marriage problems between a rich couple during their European ski trip? And okay, fair enough. But I think this story is captivating and interesting enough that if it means reshooting it in English so more people will watch it with two of the best actors working today, how can I be mad? And without giving away spoilers, writer-directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon did a great job making the key takeaways from DOWNHILL, especially the climactic moment between Pete and Billie, different than its predecessor.
For those that have already seen FORCE MAJEURE, it is still worth it to see DOWNHILL too…not only because of the amazing cast and cinematography, but there are enough differences between the scripts I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
My Review: B+