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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020 3 months ago

'Downhill' races to the bottom of the barrel

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Decision to remake award-winning film from just 6 years ago, then do it this badly, just a mistake all around

The new film "Downhill" is purported to be "based" on the highly regarded Swedish film, "Force Majeure." It's a remake. And a feeble one at that.

  Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Farrell portray a seemingly happy married couple, Billie and Pete, who take their two young sons on a ski trip to Austria. While dining at an outdoor restaurant nestled in the mountains, an avalanche hits the deck at which they're seated. Pete grabs his cellphone and bolts. Billie shields her sons, hoping to save their lives. When the dust — or rather, the snow — settles, Pete returns to the table and orders soup as though nothing ever happened.

  Of course, the dynamics of their relationship are definitely about to drastically change. Billie and the kids are pissed while Pete claims that there's no way he could have ran while wearing ski boots. And they're sticking to their stories.

  Why directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Academy Award-winning writers for "The Descendants," along with Alexander Payne) were ever compelled to remake director Ruben Ostlund's dazzling dark comedy (a Cannes Jury Prize winner in 2014) is a mystery. Well, not really. The optics of teaming up Louis-Dreyfus and Farrell presenting an award at this year's Oscar wasn't subtle. It occurred just prior to the release of "Downhill" in theaters. And saturating the airwaves of late with gobs of commercials and guest appearances blatantly speaks to money promoting mediocrity in filmmaking.

  The choice of employing fluff over substance takes "Downhill" on an aimless path to nowhere. It becomes increasingly annoying and evolves into boring. One shining moment occurs when Billie and Pete are walking down a hall, hand in hand, and Billie pushes Pete's hand away from hers. It's a Melania moment. At least, we can hope it was meant as such.

  Credit also has to be given to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' amazing facial expressions. They, alone, provoke the only laughs that this tedious film deserves. Oh, and the scenery is breathtaking. 

  Even clocking in at a mere 86 minutes, watching "Downhill" seemed like an eternity. The only thing that rang true in this movie was its title.  

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