REVIEW: ‘Downhill’ enjoyable thanks to mix of drama, dark comedy

“Downhill,” aka, “Marriage Story: On Ice.”

This movie taking place at a ski resort in Austria follows a family of four on vacation. The family includes the parents Billie (Julia Louis Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell), and their two sons Finn (Julian Grey) and Emerson (Ammon Jacob Ford). The family appears to have some stress from vacation traveling, but seem to be ready for a pleasant trip in Europe.

However, the situation gets rocky when a controlled avalanche to provide more snow on the slopes causes a sequence of events that results in a rift between the married couple. The rest of the trip explores their drama as they navigate the rest of their vacation.

Apparently, this movie was inspired by a foreign film titled “Force Majeure,” which I never heard of. So, because I also didn’t see the trailers, this was kind of a blind watch.My expectations were for a standard family comedy, until I saw the Fox Searchlight Pictures logo.

While “Downhill” is a comedy, it leans very much toward the dark comedy genre. In fact it’s much more of a drama, and to its credit, a lot of it works rather well.

Following the main initiating event of the movie, there’s an underlying tension as the married couple attempts to remain civil. It results in some really good awkward humor, as well as some compelling and even emotional moments.

DownhillBLog
Courtesy Searchlight Pictures.

There’s an especially good scene where it all comes together in about the second act where the lead protagonists are meeting with another married couple. It’s intense and passionate, with just a nice dash of comedy inserted appropriately.

Making a lot of this work is Louis-Dreyfus, who does superb work portraying a woman experiencing a rather stressful point in her life. She certainly gives the best performance in the movie.

Will Ferrell is also really good here in portraying a man experiencing somewhat of a midlife crisis, or at least coming to terms with some truths. He is especially good during some moments in the third act.

The cast is well supported by Zach Woods, Zoe Chao and Miranda Otto. Chao and Otto are especially good in some humorous moments in the picture.

The directing and writing team of Nat Faxon, Jim Rash and Jesse Armstrong, really put together a solid film. The movie is well served by a strong screenplay and good direction, which created a compelling experience. It’s a clever, smart film that digs into masculinity, family, and parenthood.

There are flaws that come about here and there, keeping the movie from hitting the top tier of the genre. Not all of the humor lands well and there’s something at the end that felt unnecessary to the overall picture.

Despite some issues, though, “Downhill” is still an above average movie with a good cast that features nice performances, strong writing and an overall enjoyable mix of drama and humor. 3.85 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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