Cinematic Spillover: A Short Review of Downhill

click to enlarge Cinematic Spillover: A Short Review of Downhill
Searchlight Pictures

Here is a short review of the dark comedy Downhill, which hits theaters nationwide February 14.


It would be easy enough to label most American remakes that don't live up to their superior foreign counterparts as unnecessary each time it happens (Oldboy, Secret in Their Eyes — for example), but Downhill includes a specific ingredient that doesn’t make it a lost cause entirely – Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Yes, Downhill, a dark comedy based on the critically-acclaimed 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure, is ultimately irrelevant, but Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t waste the opportunity to show her dramatic range, much like she did in her last film role in 2013’s Enough Said opposite the late James Gandolfini.

The film stars Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell as Billie and Pete, a husband and wife who are on a skiing trip in the Alps with their two young sons. One day while at lunch at the ski resort, the entire family gets scared to death when an avalanche begins to accelerate toward them. When the snow dust clears, everyone is safe. The problem is that Pete, upon seeing the avalanche barreling down the mountainside, runs to safety without giving a second thought to the well-being of his wife or children.

Call it a natural instinct to escape danger as quickly as possible, but Pete’s cowardice in that single moment puts his relationship on thin ice with Billie for the rest of the trip as she attempts to understand why her husband literally left them all behind to be buried alive.

It’s not a funny scenario, but like its predecessor, Downhill takes the uncomfortable consequences of Pete’s actions and transforms them into cringe-worthy moments between the family as they try to enjoy the rest of their vacation.

Downhill doesn’t come close to capturing the same dark sense of humor and tone as Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund’s indie dramedy, but Louis-Dreyfus proves that there’s plenty she can offer to the big screen now that HBO’s Veep has reached its term limits.

Downhill opens nationwide February 14.

2.5 out of 5 stars (not recommended)


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