Downhill Parent Guide
Watching this film is a reminder that families are hard to build and easy to destroy.
Parent Movie Review
Although I live within sight of the Rocky Mountains, I don’t care for skiing. The idea of speeding down a cold, snowy mountain with waxed strips of fiberglass attached to my feet holds no appeal. But I would rather fall down a mountain on skis than go on a vacation with the Staunton family.
Pete and Billie Staunton (played by Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) have brought their boys (played by Julian Grey and Ammon Jacob Ford) to Austria for a skiing holiday. Everyone is enjoying their Alpine adventure until an avalanche roars down the mountain towards the restaurant patio where they are awaiting lunch. As the snow barrels towards the restaurant, Pete runs for safety, leaving his family behind. Billie throws her arms around her boys and ducks in the face of what she believes is imminent death.
Luckily, the avalanche stops in time, leaving everyone covered with a dusting of snow. No one is dead, but Pete and Billie’s relationship is on life support.
Downhill can be a hard movie to watch. Pete’s cowardice is the initial wound to the marriage, but what follows is worse. Over the next several days, Pete gaslights his wife, repeatedly insisting that her memory is inaccurate. As he patronizingly says to her, “I can accept your version of the truth. Why can’t you accept mine?” Billie responds with enraged defiance, “Because my version is the truth!”
Watching this film is a reminder that families are hard to build and easy to destroy. As Pete struggles with guilt and Billie stews in anger, the family begins to fracture. The boys’ respect for their father withers and the pain on their faces is visible when their mother drags them into an argument. This movie is a vivid reminder that deceit and anger have the power to corrode and destroy the foundations of stable family life – love, trust, and respect.
For a production without any nudity or explicit sexual content, Downhill still manages to provide enough negative material to earn its Restricted rating. Profanity includes nine sexual expletives and there are multiple scenes of alcohol consumption, including one where Pete gets very drunk. But the biggest issue here is sexual language and innuendo. There is a tasteless scene where Billie races into a bathroom stall, removes her winter gloves, unzips her fly and apparently masturbates (no graphic detail is shown). Billie also has an unpleasantly detailed conversation with Charlotte, a sexually “liberated” manager at the resort, wherein Charlotte shares details of her adulterous relationships and mocks the concept of marital fidelity.
As I sat in the theater, I was trying to figure out who the intended audience is supposed to be for this movie. It’s not a feel good romantic drama, it’s most certainly not a comedy, and it’s not a deep psychological study. The characters, although competently acted, fall too easily into the stereotypes of doofus dad and competent mom. In fact, although Pete is the one whose actions damage the family, it’s left to Billie to come up with a way to save it. Frankly, that just feels like another downhill slide from the idea of an equal marriage of responsible, loving adults.Directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Will Ferrel, and Miranda Otto. Running time: 86 minutes. Theatrical release February 14, 2020. Updated February 14, 2020
Watch the trailer for Downhill
Rating & Content Info
Violence: An aggressive and intoxicated man moves towards another man in a night club and collapses on top of him. An angry woman stomps, yells, and throws ski poles on the ground. There are several scenes of people arguing and yelling. A man rides a cart too quickly and bumps into a child in front of him.
Sexual Content: A woman tells a couple they should have nude saunas to celebrate their bodies. A married couple is heard talking in the bathroom: the wife tells her husband she is getting undressed and sex is implied. Women have a conversation about their sexual pasts: one rationalizes adultery. One of the women makes a sexual gesture indicating an activity we can’t describe on a family website. A man massages a married woman’s calf, and starts massaging her upper thigh; they kiss. She uses profanity to tell him what kind of sex she could have with him. There is a scene which implies that a woman is masturbating. Speaking of a sexual activity, a woman describes a man as an animal.
Profanity: There are approximately 18 uses of profanity, including nine sexual expletives and an assortment of terms of deity and anatomical terms.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters drink alcohol in multiple situations; in restaurants, bars, clubs, their hotel suite, and in bed. A main character gets drunk in public while dealing with a stressful time. A couple talk about prior usage of hallucinogenic mushrooms. A man drinks hard liquor from a flask on a ski run, pours some into a thermos filled with coffee, which he passes to a woman who then drinks it.
Page last updated February 14, 2020
Downhill Parents' Guide
Why does it take so long for Pete to acknowledge his behavior? Why do we struggle to admit when we’ve done something wrong?
The New York Times: Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong
Pete gaslights his wife. What is gaslighting? How do you know if someone is gaslighting you? What can you do about it?
Psychology Today: 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting
It can be hard to forgive someone who has hurt us or breached our trust. What are the benefits of forgiving others? What can you do to forgive someone?
Greater Good Magazine: Eight Keys to Forgiveness
Psychology Wiki: Religious views of forgiveness
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