Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell and directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash on the set of “Downhill” (Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation).
Better than Expected; But Movie Still Goes Downhill
Shout out to Will Ferrell (“Daddy’s Home”) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) for trying something different with “Downhill.”
The film “Downhill” brands itself as a biting comedy.
But “Downhill” is more dramatic than anything.
And while “Downhill” is better than expected because it lets Ferrell show a more dramatic side of his talent, the film goes downhill when it should go uphill.
In “Downhill,” Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Ferrell) seem to have everything going for them.
The married couple has done great on their jobs.
They have two young and rambunctious sons.
And they have enough money to take family sky trips to Austria.
Despite everything looking good from the outside looking in for Pete and Billie, the couple has some underlying issues that they have left unresolved.
Pete recently lost his father.
And while Billie is hoping to get some time away to forget about work and the death, Pete constantly is receiving text messages from his colleague Zach (Zach Woods) who is also visiting Europe with his girlfriend, Rosie (Zoe Chao).
What Billie cannot understand is why is Zach and Pete texting so much while on vacation when they are not really good friends?
Zach and Rosie are jumping from European country to European country, posting pictures on Instagram with hash tags like #noagenda and #livingourbestlife.
Billie just hopes that their agendas and lives do not cross in Austria because she really does not know the young couple, and does not want to get to know them while trying to spend quality family time.
Although the family trip to Austria begins with no problems, when an avalanche almost hurts or kills the entire family, the problems that Pete and Billie have hidden come to the surface.
The incident with the avalanche even begins to affect the couple’s relationship with their children.
What “Downhill” represents is what some men do to make a relationship go downhill, literally.
It is hard to consider oneself as a man if the people that look to you for protection and guidance lose respect for you as a man.
Love is one thing.
But respect is something totally different.
People can love you and not want to be around you.
You can hurt someone and they could still love you.
But once that respect is gone, it is very hard to earn it back.
When respect is gone in a marriage, many women will begin to spend more alone time away from their husbands.
When respect is gone, the potential of infidelity becomes more realistic.
Things that would not tempt someone while they are head over heels in love seem to start coming at them from all angles.
And when one loses respect for their mate, they sometimes begin looking at other relationships with jealousy and envy.
“Downhill” also brands itself as a different kind of disaster because Pete’s decisions might lead to a disaster within his marriage to Billie.
And while “Downhill” is not a total disaster of a movie, it is nothing special.
With Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus, moviegoers would expect hilarious laugh out loud moments.
But they will not get many of those moments with “Downhill.”
Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell’s characters are not even the funniest characters in the movie.
That honor goes to Austrian hotel worker Charlotte (Miranda Otto) who must have an open relationship with her husband because she spends the winter months away from him at the hotel, but not totally away from male companionship.
She brags to Billie and Pete that she can get any man at the resort that she wants.
Charlotte is so dismissive about adultery that she compares rubbing certain body parts to shaking hands.
No big deal, right?
While Charlotte does not take her marriage vows seriously, Billie obviously does despite the problems in her marriage to Pete.
Charlotte desperately tries to get Billie to loosen up on her solo day away from the husband and children.
The overly friendly hotel worker even tries to get her colleague Guglielmo (Giullo Berruti) to give Billie a private ski lesson even though she is not a novice skier in the least bit.
Despite Ferrell not displaying his trademark outrageous comedy like in classics such as “Step Brothers” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” he does show some growth and maturity with “Downhill.”
Come to think of it, Ferrell has been on this trajectory for a minute with movies like “Daddy’s Home” and “Daddy’s Home 2,” playing the doting dad instead of the dimwitted dummy.
But all attempts at growth are not necessarily good when one is an artist.
Sometimes people have to stay in their lane.
Although actor/comedian Kevin Hart pulled off his attempt at a more dramatic role in “The Upside,” Ferrell’s attempt at a dramatic career does not have the same upside as Hart’s try at it.
But Ferrell deserves an “A” for effort because one cannot succeed without at least trying new things.
Louis-Dreyfus is also more known for sitcoms like “Seinfeld” than she is for dramatic movies.
And honestly, she does a decent job portraying a woman fed up with her marriage and on the brink of doing something that will take the relationship to the point of no return.
All of the actors did their best, but sometimes a person’s best is not good enough.
Even when “Downhill” picks up a little steam, the momentum ends abruptly with a subpar conclusion to the film.