Downhill (2020)

Given the pedigree behind this American adaptation of 2014’s “Force Majeure,” the finished product is frustratingly mediocre . Mind you, some of it works: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is unsurprisingly fantastic as a wife and mother on a vacation with her family, where a near-tragedy forces uncomfortable questions about father and husband Will Ferrell’s commitment to the family unit. You almost wish the movie would focus less on its own central story and follow her around instead, because even though her character isn’t particularly engaging, Louis-Dreyfus herself is completely believable (in particular a climactic monologue that could peel the paint off the wall). However, where the original confronts the emotional consequences of his actions with unsettling realism, slowly ratcheting up the tension as the narrative barrels towards an inevitable confrontation with notably dark humor, this version instead presents the events with a negligent, laissez-faire disinterest. The narrative seems more interested in cheap, broad laughs (like cartoonishly sexed-up foreigners, and sitcom-level dynamics among supporting players Zach Woods and Zoe Chao, who both deserve better), and treats its own underlying themes like afterthoughts. Ultimately, co-writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash let their movie founder aimlessly by itself, and ignore the fascinating story struggling to break through the superficial surface sheen.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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