Will Ferrell’s name has become a warning label for big-screen comedies, and the trend continues with “Downhill.” Ferrell’s name was attached to some of the most cringe-worthy comedies of the 2010s. From “The House” to “Holmes & Watson,” audiences have turned away from his work with good reason.
But this disaster called ‘Downhill’ is all on the head of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the executive producer/co-star of an American remake of the Swedish film “Force Majeure.” The opening wide-shot of the Swiss Alps is all the bliss this film has to offer. The remaining 85 minutes are a battle of attrition that will test your patience to its limits.
Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell play a vacationing couple, Billie and Pete, who are having vague marital problems. Pete fails to protect his family in a moment of terror when they believe an avalanche is hurtling toward them. Billie and their children must deal with the shattered image of their dad and husband. The conflict becomes so unbearable that no one has earned the audience’s sympathy by the time the credits roll.
With a 14 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Downhill dupes moviegoers into thinking this was another family-friendly Will Ferrell laugh-fest. Despite being marketed as a black comedy, there is nothing humorous about this misery porn disguised as entertainment.
Farrell plays a depressed father grieving the loss of his dad while entering a midlife crisis. Louis-Dreyfus is the mother the film’s three screenwriters want you to sympathize with but her meltdowns have little motivation behind them, rendering her no better than the husband she blames for all her problems. The avalanche crisis gives Billie carte blanche to run Pete down in front of his friends and their kids, a reaction so out of proportion with the event that she’s rendered two-dimensional.
Billie makes out with a ski instructor and tells him she could have banged him through the walls if she wanted to, while her husband cares for their traumatized children on the other side of the resort. The script’s cowardice in avoiding deeper dives into infidelity, grief, and parenthood gives this movie no depth outside of Billie’s over-animated grievance against her husband.
The film wants you to believe that because this man didn’t help his wife in a moment of panic, that EVERYTHING that she does is 100% justified…No.
Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell force audiences to watch the cinematic equivalent of sitting in a car with your parents while they argue on the way to Six Flags, and decide halfway there to turn around and go home, leaving you dissatisfied and miserable.
Downhill attempts to address “toxic masculinity” through the Hollywood tactic of emasculating male characters to absurd degrees. The deeper contrast between how married and dating couples handle conflict is never addressed. An opportunity to dissect the narcissism of creating a dream life through social media is missed.
The climax of the film is one of the most manipulative scenes in cinema where Billie tells Pete “If you don’t like the way I see you, then show me something different.” With no resolution, the film provides a bitter taste that lingers as you leave the theater.
Despite Hollywood’s recent trend of portraying heterosexual marriages as a miserable race to the grave, this nihilistic vision of wedded life that the studio believed was the perfect film to drop during the most romantic time of the year is a collasic waste of time for everyone.