Up for an American studio remake of well received European indie dramedy? I doubt it since no one ever asks for them. Nat Faxon’s and Jim Rash’s Downhill is a new take on Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure from 2014 which for the sake of this review, I have not seen (but would much prefer based on what I saw). What I gathered though was that the runtime is significantly shorter and there are some new elements along with the star power of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (as Billie) and Will Ferrell (Pete). The key here is the short runtime which is very much why a lot of the film’s scenes don’t work.
Something to start with is that Downhill is decent enough in entirety. It sets up the characters, introduces the conflict early and it’s all shot very well which from what I understand is pretty close to the original style. Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell do work hard with what they’re given and at points Louis-Dreyfus carries scenes on her back all by herself. There’s a part where Billie is having a ”solo day” which actually hits all the notes that the movie is trying to hit, from silences to character decisions. Unfortunately even that sequence ends in a typical American comedy cliche. Ferrell’s Pete gets a boys’ night out which has great awkwardness at one point, that also ends in American melodrama and overacting.
This all is where the film misses the mark. It is so afraid of the European style which got Force Majeure its praise and instead replaces all of that with all too common American physicality and rhythm. That straight up kills scenes. Directorial choices of Naxon and Rash don’t utilise the silence or dryness that the story relies on which is such a shame because then the comedy doesn’t have any time to land. Only times it’s kind of showing is whenever Miranda Otto’s character Charlotte is on the screen, her spontaneousness is fun and provides a different tone. The two main stars’ characters don’t do that, Pete especially gets no retrospection on how his masculinity evolves.
Smileys: Miranda Otto
Frowneys: Pacing, originality
Maybe just don’t remake stuff that you don’t seem to understand.