A person quickly glancing at today’s Rotten Tomatoes summary might lump Downhill and Fantasy Island together as roughly equal bad greenies. That would be an incorrect perception. Because Downhill (though admittedly a questionable film to see on Valentine’s Day) really isn’t half bad. Especially if you’re able to divest yourself of the idiotic presumption that because it stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louis Dreyfus it must be a laugh riot.
In no way, shape or form is Downhill a “comedy”. At best it offers a few chuckles. At the same time it’s not my idea of a problematic film — it’s smart, attuned, watchable. And it really ends brilliantly. Is it as good as Ruben Ostlund‘s 2014 original? Some say no; I say it doesn’t matter.
Repeating: I found it better than decent — adult, well measured, emotionally frank, well acted and cunningly written. (Faxon and Rash shared screenplay credit with Jesse Armstrong.) It’s not a burn, it’s not about a ‘black and white situation’ (as one of the less perceptive characters puts it) and it provides ample food for thought and discussion. It’s not silly, stupid or frivolous but (gasp!) a serious film fused with sharp, occasionally amusing dialogue.
Paul Schrader quoted on 11.30.18: “There are people who talk about the American cinema of the ‘70s as some halcyon period. It was to a degree but not because there were any more talented filmmakers. There’s probably, in fact, more talented filmmakers today than there was in the ‘70s. What there was in the ‘70s was better audiences.
“When people take movies seriously it’s very easy to make a serious movie. When they don’t take [them] seriously, it’s very, very hard. We now have audiences that don’t take movies seriously so it’s hard to make a serious movie for them. It’s not that us filmmakers are letting you down, it’s [that] audiences are letting us down.”