A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Downhill, a remake of the Swedish film Force Majeure, explores an act of cowardice. Expect a fair bit of strong language, with uses of "f--k," "bulls--t," "p---y," and more, as well as a lot of sex talk/innuendo. A man sneaks into the bathroom, voicing his intention to shower with his wife. A married woman receives a massage from a ski instructor; he works his hands up her legs, and she kisses him. She then tries to masturbate in a public restroom. There's frequent arguing, scary "boom" sounds and an avalanche, and a man tries to start a fight in a club. A character gets extremely drunk, someone mentions taking "shrooms," and there's social drinking throughout. It stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus but isn't really a comedy; in fact, it can't seem to quite figure out what it's trying to say or how to say it.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In DOWNHILL, married couple Pete (Will Ferrell) and Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) have taken their two boys on a skiing vacation in the Alps. Pete is still getting over his father's death, and he sees Billie's nagging and controlling behavior as a deterrent to living his life to the fullest. At lunch one day, an avalanche tumbles down the mountain onto the restaurant deck where the family is seated. In the face of what they believe to be certain doom, Billie cradles her children, while Pete grabs his phone and runs away, leaving his family behind. Later, the couple finds it difficult to talk about the incident, until Pete invites a work friend, Zach (Zach Woods), who was also traveling nearby, to dinner. After an explosive confrontation, Pete and Billie take a couple of days apart to do some soul-searching. Can Pete make up for his mistake?
Is it any good?
An odd, misguided remake of a 2014 Swedish movie, this sour, muddled comedy seems to have missed the original's point. Here, it's 86 minutes spent with detestable people who argue and make excuses. Force Majeure was an excruciating black comedy so deliberately level and deadpan that it forced viewers to ask themselves the unanswerable question: What would I have done if it were me? Downhill, on the other hand, draws all of its attention to its unlikable characters -- and it's likely that many viewers' only thought will be: How soon can I get out of here?
Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus are great performers, and both try their best here. Ferrell is, frankly, miscast. Much of his comedy comes from a sense of childlike arrested development juxtaposed with a big man's body. He's never been about masculinity or bravery. And poor Louis-Dreyfus mainly shrieks and fusses and looks pinched and angry, except in one strange slapstick sequence during which she nearly sleeps with a sexy ski instructor. Co-writers/co-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, whose wonderful The Way Way Back did seem to have a grasp on human behavior, simply can't decide on what they want to say in Downhill, or how to say it. They settle on a bizarre, semi-humorous ending that borrows a little from the Swedish film but misses its ambiguity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that Downhill depicts sex. What does it mean to the characters? What values are imparted by the way they treat it?
Does arguing count as violence? How does it feel to watch the main couple fighting, arguing, and shouting at each other?
Why do you think people tend to judge cowardice harshly, when every human being is capable of fear?
Is it possible to live life to the fullest, as if each day were all we had? Why don't we tend to live like that more regularly?
How is drinking portrayed? Is it glamorized, and are there consequences?
- In theaters: February 14, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2020
- Cast: Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
- Studio: Searchlight Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some sexual material
- Last updated: May 15, 2020
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