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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Downhill (M) - 86 minutes

Excruciating. That’s a summary of this decidedly ordinary take on a very decent European film called Force Majeure (2014).

It is meant to be the ski holiday of a lifetime – namely a week in the Austrian Alps –for Peter (Will Ferrell) and Billie Stanton (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and their two boys.

With both parents unplugged from their professional careers, the Stantons are – on the surface of it – ready for seven days of family fun.

But what was poised to be a delightful week of skiing and togetherness instead becomes a series of awkward and emotional fraught moments.

Peter and Billie have to be honest with themselves and each other in ways they hadn’t expected.

Early in the trip, while having lunch outdoors at a mountainside restaurant, Peter and Billie have dramatically different responses to what is – unbeknownst to them – a controlled avalanche that appears frighteningly out of control.

Peter’s reaction stuns the family and throws the rest of their holidays and the couple’s marriage into chaos.

This distinctly American take on an original story by Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund is, quite frankly, a disaster.

It is the work of writer Jesse Armstrong (In The Loop), Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the latter two of whom directed this piece and earlier The Way Way Back (2013).

To be candid, the only thing good about Downhill is the vistas – that is the spectacular snowfields.

It is heavy handed and clunky. No subtlety whatsoever ... and really, really boring – tortuously so.

The performances appear forced and wooden.

Ferrell and Dreyfus just don’t ring true. As for the chemistry between them ... what chemistry?

The children are like blocks of ice just delivering their lines.

The ancillary characters, too, are cardboard cut outs.

If I could howl in despair I would.

Just what were the filmmakers thinking?

I can’t recommend this film to anyone because it is a complete waste of time.

If you haven’t seen the European version that I referenced at the start, please search it out.

Rated M, Downhill scores a 1 out of 10 – and that is only for the picturesque surroundings.


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