Downhill Movie Review Plus Video (8/10)
Photo Credit /SearchlightPictures
Film Distribution /SearchlightPictures
Will Ferrell is two actors to me. He is a very good dramatic actor, as I have mentioned before in Stranger Than Fiction (2006), for instance. But as a comedian, well maybe it’s best to quote my assistant after we exited the screening room. “It was good,” she said, “to see Will Ferrell not acting stupid.”
Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash from Jesse Armstrong’s screenplay, although it claims to be “inspired” by another movie, this is really just a better remake of Force Majeure (2014), written and directed by Ruben Öslund. A much better remake, actually, because my main criticism of that film was that, at two hours, it was 30 minutes too long. Someone must have been listening because this is almost exactly 30 minutes shorter.
The acting is terrific, headed by Ferrell (Pete) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Billie), who is also a co-producer, as a married couple on a skiing vacation in Switzerland with their two sons. They are aided by fine supporting performances by Zach Wood and Zoë Chao as a business associate of Pete’s and his girlfriend.
Filmed in the Austrian Alps, like Force Majeure, the problem arises when Pete runs away during an avalanche and it brings an enormous amount of tension into their relationship and the relationship between Pete and their sons. The anxiety of the actors was real because it was filmed during a period of high snowfall with lots of real avalanches occurring all around them. As an aside, it was so cold during the filming that the actors hid hot water bottles inside their clothing to keep warm.
Louis-Dreyfuss, who co-produced, carries the film with her outstanding performance as a wife who suddenly sees her beloved husband as something other than a knight in shining armor.
This is a fine film of appropriate length. I hope that Ferrell will forget about comedy (most of his films are on my “worst of the year” lists) and concentrate on being a serious actor.
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