SUNDANCE REVIEW — “Downhill”
Will and Julia in the snow
Downhill is directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who co-wrote the screenplay with Jesse Armstrong and stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto, Zoë Chao, Zach Woods, Kristofer Hivju, Alex Macqueen, Julian Grey, and Ammon Jacob Ford. It tells the story of a woman who starts to have second doubts about her husband after he runs away from an approaching avalanche, leaving her and their two sons behind. Kicking off our Sundance Film Festival reviews is the Nat Faxon and Jim Rash join Downhill! While not quite as good as it’s near-perfect predecessor, Downhill still stands on its own as a smart comedy with two fantastic performances from Ferrell and Dreyfus.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash are two very talented directors and even though the task of remaking Force Majeure may seem like a futile one, the pair do a pretty fine job. Downhill is more of a reimagining of the original story than a remake. The characters are situations are similar, but Faxon and Rash decide to take them in very different directions. While they don’t reach the heights of the original story in any regard, they’ve still created a unique and surprisingly thoughtful comedy. Their screenplay is sharp and regularly funny but also pulls off some genuinely great dramatic moments. It’s an interesting case study in filmmaking, as I’m not sure how I’d feel about the film if it was just its own original idea. It’s kinda like the Aliens to Alien. Where the same movie is made but with very different executions. I’m sure fans of the original will be very unhappy with this version of the story, but hey, I enjoyed it.
The cast all do a great job. Zach Woods is funny as always and serves as a great comedic relief. Will Ferrell does a great, playing out of type in a more dramatic and unlikable character. While this isn’t his Uncut Gems, I’d hope to see him take more risks moving forward. Julia Louis-Dreyfus does excellent here and shines bright in every scene she’s in. She’s a great actress and I hope she continues to put out work this solid. On a technical level, Downhill is very well done. The editing is crisp and the score is very fitting. The cinematography is expectedly beautiful, capturing some truly beautiful scenery, while also staging some very intimate and well-done sequences. In short, Downhill is a well-done comedy with a solid dramatic undercurrent, but it’s also entirely unnecessary. 2.5/5