Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell Can’t Save Mediocre Remake
"Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery that mediocrity can pay for greatness." The eloquent quote from Oscar Wilde sums up my reaction to Downhill ; the American remake of the 2014 award-winning Swedish film, Force Majeure . The brilliant interaction of the characters and the biting dialogue of the original get lost in the translation. The great actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell look wooden in their performances. They cause a few laughs, but fail to captivate globally. Their lack of chemistry transforms Downhill into a slow and dry narrative.
Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell) Staunton take their two young sons skiing in the Austrian Alps. Pete mistakenly reserved them in an adult complex. What they learn quickly after meeting the provocative concierge (Miranda Otto). Pete's desire for adventure and excitement on the slopes is not shared by his family. The next morning at breakfast, an unexpected event and Pete's reaction to it, brought the tension to a tipping point.
The situation got worse with the arrival of Pete's young colleague (Zach Woods) and his carefree new girlfriend (Zoë Chao). A group dinner gets ugly when Billie recounts Pete's behavior. A gap between Pete, his wife and children grows overnight. The married couple must take stock of their relationship. And decide if it is strong enough to overcome what has happened.
The film has a great premise. Apparently ordinary family vacations are blinded by chance. Force everyone involved to take stock of their personal truths. The burning drama and the dark humor of Force Majeure were only glimpsed in Downhill . Although the plot is quite similar, the writing and the execution by the actors are not in the same league. It's a big surprise when you consider talent in front and behind the camera. Downhill is written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. They won the scriptwriting Oscar for The Descendants and also directed The Way, Way Back . The pair seem like a great choice for bringing Swedish source material to Hollywood. They are strangely missing here. Their rhythm, their script and their casting are not consistent. Downhill ahead despite an execution time of less than ninety minutes.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell were to be unleashed. They are too moderate within the characters. Descent would have benefited from their talents as an improviser. Faxon and Rash were probably tamed by their design. The film has serious themes, hence the idea of muzzling the tracks prone to hyperbola. It makes sense in principle, but disfigures a great cast. This is why laughter is rare. Two great actors bottle their energy. Ferrell in particular seems irrelevant. Downhill needed more than a spark with a main firecracker.
Mirando Otto is unrecognizable as a hedonistic hotel guide. She steals each scene from her famous co-stars. His Austrian accent and deadlocked delivery are the highlights of the film. Hard to believe that Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Will Ferrell are the least humorous characters. I will consider Downhill an aberration and not their new normal. Downhill is a production of Filmhaus and probable stories distributed by Searchlight Pictures.
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