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It’s All Downhill

By Paul Hall

Disaster can strike at any moment. All of us face life-changing moments on a daily basis, but it is how we deal with them that makes up who we are and who we become. They bring out the best and the worst and sometimes have the ability to provide clarity to things that are muddled. In the new film Downhill, an avalanche provides the life-changing moment, but can one random event really crystalize a relationship?

Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell) have taken their two boys on a ski vacation in the Alps. Things are going along in a fairly normal manner when an avalanche strikes while the family is sitting down to eat lunch. The intensity of the moment produces two different responses. Pete grabs his cellphone and runs away while Billie grabs her boys to protect them. And it’s at that moment things become clear within the family about who or what is most important.

Although they were together, Pete always looked out for Pete, even texting a friend while the family was on vacation to vicariously live a different vacation. Billie doesn’t like it, but decides to take time for herself and tries to help Pete see what should be important.

Inspired by the film Force Majeure, Downhill attempts to create a film to address relationships but, unfortunately, from the avalanche forward, the laughs fall flat and the serious relationship moments just feel uncomfortable.

I am a fan of Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell. They make me laugh and have been able to generally deliver on their talent. But what they do in Downhill makes me feel absolutely nothing for them or their characters. I don’t like them or care about their relationship other than for the simple fact that I want relationships to succeed, but here I don’t know if I even want that.

Visually, Downhill provides stunning shots of the Alps and skiing, but this isn’t a documentary about the mountains. The film intends to engage viewers in the examination of the problems that can be below the surface in any relationship. Those concerns are not enjoyable to face. With some rapid changes in tone throughout the film, viewers will find themselves on their own toboggan run of emotions that has more peaks and valleys than the mountain ranges.

In short, no matter how high the ski lift goes, this film proceeds downhill from the moment the lights go down.

Paul’s Grade: C-

Rated R
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

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