Downhill (2020)

Downhill poster

SHORT VERSION

Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other.

LONG VERSION

We see a beautiful European ski mountain landscape, and then we see a close up to 2 tubes sticking out of the snow roughly 8 feet apart. We hear a loud bang as something is released out of the tubes, followed by an unsettling rumbling…

Opening Credits

The Stanton family, Pete (Will Ferrell), Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and sons Finn and Emerson, are taking pictures atop a mountain in full ski gear. They are trying to follow the directions of the local Austrian photographer but are completely unable to understand him. They try changing positions, lifting their arms, etc.

Later we see them impressively skiing down the mountain. Shortly afterward, we see them walking in their resort village, each holding their skis over their shoulders. Billie looks around as they near the check-in office and asks Pete why there are no other children around and thinks it’s weird. Pete, however, is texting his friend Zach who is also traveling in Europe.

Pete shows Billie Zach’s frequent postings and his overbearing hashtagging of everything. While Billie makes fun of it, Pete seems to be a big fan.

Charlotte (Miranda Otto) greets them at the front desk. She is overtly friendly and gives them a brief introduction to the resort amenities. She indicates that everyone is to be completely naked in the sauna and that it is important to celebrate their bodies. Billie asks Charlotte why there are no children around. Charlotte explains that they are in another resort down the road.
After checking in, they settle down in their hotel room. The boys are sharing a single queen bed. Pete is busily texting Zach again as they update each other on what they are doing.

Pete shows Billie that he has brought his father’s ski hat. He says he wants to wear it and think of him as he skis tomorrow. She responds reassuringly.

We see they have ordered room service and put the tray at the foot of the bed to have a bed picnic.

Billie says they should stop (eating) and goes into the bathroom to take a shower. Pete eats a few more fries and then goes into the shower with her, quoting Charlotte’s instructions that he needs to celebrate his body. Billie giggles.

The next morning we see Billie and Pete standing close to each other, brushing their teeth together, sharing the same mirror, and sink in close quarters. We notice there is another sink and mirror in the same bathroom; however, they naturally choose to use the same one. Afterward, Billie sits at a table prepping for their day of skiing by sticking large random stickers all over each family member’s ski helmet so they can all easily spot each other in the crowd of skiers.

On the slopes for their morning ski run, Finn has pulled out far ahead of the rest of the family. Pete calls out to him to slow down and stay with the group. Emerson is a very slow skier and skis back and forth at a snail’s pace behind them all. Pete encourages him by shouting up to him that he is looking good, yet he is so slow that the three of them can have a short whispered discussion about him. They decide to not hurt his feelings or break his spirit.

They are at lunch at a busy outdoor restaurant and look at their menu as they plan their meals for the rest of the day. They decide on soup with a pastry snack for later. Suddenly they hear a loud bang (the same bang we heard at the opening), which draws their attention to the high mountain top. Again we hear a rumbling and see a loosening of snow from way overhead cascading down. It builds momentum in mass and volume as this avalanche begins to turn uneasy and eventually terrifying. The avalanche heads straight for this resort restaurant and is immediately upon them. Everyone screams as it hits.

The aftermath finds it quiet and snow-covered. We see everyone a little disoriented in the restaurant looking around, trying to understand what happened. We find Billie still at the table, between her 2 sons, loosening her clutches on them and obviously rattled. Pete, however, returns back to the table as he ran away for cover when the avalanche hit, leaving her and the boys. Billie and her sons notice his awkward return. It is very uncomfortable, and Pete plays it off by continuing the soup discussion as if nothing happened. Later as they return their ski gear at the rental shop, Pete scolds the attendant for nearly hitting his son with the moving shelf. However, he was never in any real danger.

Back in their hotel room, Billie is primping at the bathroom mirror as they are getting ready to have dinner out. She is bothered by Pete wanting to use the same space (mirror and sink). She indicates that he should go somewhere else, in contrast to their togetherness in the early morning. As they tensely walk to the hotel restaurant, he holds her hand awkwardly, and in just a few steps later, she lets go. Charlotte sees them at the hostess desk and beckons them to join her at her table.

They sit and visit with Charlotte as she flamboyantly discusses her sexual, carefree, independence, moments before Charlie, Charlotte’s date, joins them as well. Billie brings up the avalanche story in conversation, and Pete talks down the severity of the event. She says how terrified she and the kids were. Pete brings up that his father died 8 months ago, so that’s why they are all there having a family vacation. Pete goes on to talk about how his father was a travel agent for years but never went anywhere. He continues on to talk about how his father had these very special drinking glasses, very expensive and very dear to him. Pete was surprised to see how casually his father treated these fragile glasses and how he used them every day and threw them in the dishwasher haphazardly. When Pete asked his father about his treatment of the glasses, his father said: “Every day is all we have.” This phrase had a huge impact on Pete as he repeats it often. Charlotte encourages them to make an official complaint about their avalanche experience and the hardship it’s caused.

Billie and Pete the next day go to make an official complaint to express their grievance over the resort’s daily practice of having regulated avalanches. They say there are no warnings posted anywhere but are corrected as the safety representative emphatically retorts that there are warnings posted all over the resort. Billie and Pete say that they didn’t see any. Pete says that he wants it acknowledged that it (avalanche) was handled poorly. The safety representative says that it was handled perfectly. The safety representative makes a snide comment that this is not America where you can sue because the coffee is hot. This makes Billie angrier as she tells him then that she is an attorney.

We see Billie and Pete getting ready for bed, back in their bathroom using separate mirrors and sinks. Then later, we see Billie sleeping while Pete is sitting in the bathroom, texting Zach.

Their sons wake them up the next morning. They have overslept and need to rush out the door with their gear because they have special ski reservations outside of their resort. They haven’t eaten breakfast, and they are scrambling to catch a helicopter.

Pete minimizes the kid’s complaints saying they are going to be having so much fun that they won’t notice their hunger. Pete stresses that this ski excursion is special and cost him $2,000.00. Billie is trying to get them snack bars to sustain them temporarily. As they scramble out of the car, the helicopter is about to take off, and Emerson cannot find his glove. The event coordinator is yelling at them to get on the helicopter. She cautions that they need to take off now because the weather may change. This news alarms Billie, still shaken by the day before. Billie continues to problem solve by trying to find a replacement for Emerson’s glove. Pete is frenzied and desperately trying to get them all on the helicopter.

Furiously Billie throws down all of her gear and faces Pete. She spells it all out for him: the kids are starving, the weather may change, and Emerson can’t find his glove. It is clear that they can’t go, and the helicopter takes off.

At breakfast, Billie suggests that they just stay in today rather than ski at all. Later in the day, Billie and the boys are playing cards by the fireplace. Pete is texting Zach and invites him and his girlfriend (Rosie) over. Billie is put out by the sudden plans. Pete suggests that it was Zach who invited himself over, and he passively agreed.

Zach and Rosie are in their early 30s and have been traveling all over Europe. They love exploring multiple countries in just a few days and doing shrooms along the way. They are all about travel, adventure, living for themselves with no plans to ever have children, and no return tickets back to the United States. Pete is enchanted with their outlook.
They unknowingly disclose that it was Pete who invited them to come over, so now Billie knows Pete lied about them inviting themselves. Pete casually brings up their avalanche experience, minimizing its emotional and literal impact on them. Billie tells them the real story that Pete took his phone and left them at the table.

She went on with great detail about how she experienced the terror of it, the screaming, and then waiting for them to die together. She said when the screaming stopped, and they realized they were going to be ok, Pete came back and ordered soup. “That’s intense,” Rosie remarks. Zach defends Pete’s actions saying that his responses were raw and a survival instinct-type reaction. Pete’s response to hearing Billie’s recollection of what happened is to re-remember it differently. Pete claims that he checked on them (Billie and the kids) at the moment while the avalanche was happening and saw that they were ok. Billie disagrees with Pete’s story. She leaves the room and returns with her sons. They stand side by side, and she asks them to tell Zach and Rosie in front of Pete what happened at the time of the avalanche. “Dad ran away,” says Emerson. Finn nods in agreement. The boys leave, and facing the truth of the story escalates the tension between Billie and Pete. Pete explodes with, “You got it right! Give her a round of f*cking applause!” Billie answers back with, “You left your family. That’s what I’m right about.”
Billie sleeps with her sons.

The next morning, she tells Pete she’s going to take a solo day and suggests that he take the boys to the kid-friendly resort down the way. Later, Charlotte sees Billie in line to take a gondola up the slopes and sets her up. They have small talk, which leads naturally to a sexual promiscuity chat. Charlotte suspects that Billie is not sexually satisfied. It turns out Charlotte is married and has frequent encounters all over the place with anyone she likes throughout the winter. In the summer, she is loyal to her husband. She equates a handshake to a sexual relationship and doesn’t think of it is a big deal. Billie expresses that she sees marriage differently, and that is important for both people to see things the same way. As they exit the gondola, Charlotte surprises Billie with the news that Guglielmo (Giulio Berruti) will be her ski instructor. He is gorgeous, young, and Italian. Evidently, Charlotte made these arrangements for her unknowingly.

Meanwhile, Zach and Emerson are having the time of their lives at the family-friendly resort. “Why aren’t we staying here?” they question. This resort is completely geared toward total family involvement with fun costumed characters walking around, bright colors, rides, etc. At Billie’s lesson, Guglielmo spikes their morning, pre-ski coffee with liquor. Billie says that she is a good skier and didn’t ask for or need a lesson. He offers to ski along with her and see how it goes.

Zach, Emerson, and Pete (in that order) are on individual sleds on a track, one behind the other as they wind down the mountain in the snow. At first, they are having a great time. Zach is way out ahead, and far behind him is Emerson, followed by Pete, who is gaining speed. Emerson yells out to his dad to slow down and not to run into him. Pete ignores Emerson’s cries and indeed runs right into him, just in time for it to be caught by the ride cameras. One souvenir photo shows an individual picture of Zach smiling from ear to ear while sledding, and the other is of a miserable Emerson bumped hard by a ghoulishly smiling Pete behind him. At lunch, Pete offers to continue their day by listing a bunch of possible activities. Zach and Emerson say, “it seems like you don’t want to be here” and instead ask for screen time back at their hotel.

Billie and Guglielmo take a break in a cabin. She is a little sore, and he massages her legs seductively. They kiss passionately. She stops the advances and says they should go back to skiing, which they do. Later back at the resort, still very worked up over their interaction, Billie uses an almost-empty public restroom and goes into one of the stalls. She wrestles with the many layers of constraining ski clothes as she attempts to masturbate. Just as soon as she starts, she leans back against the unsecured door and falls onto the bathroom floor.

Reunited back in their bathroom, again using separate mirrors and sinks, Billie and Pete strain to talk about their days to each other. Then we see Pete sleeping alone in the master bedroom.

The next morning, Pete wishes Billie and the boys a good morning as he finds them all in bed and laughing at something they are watching together on an iPad. They stop laughing as soon as he walks in. Pete decides to hang out with Zach during the day and makes plans to meet up with Billie and the boys for dinner. Pete and Zach talk and ski until Pete takes a bad fall – hitting his head. They are having a beer at the outdoor resort bar where Pete is afraid that he has a concussion and repeatedly asks Zach if he thinks he’s ok. Zach makes some flimsy diagnosis and concludes that Pete is fine. They are approached by a pretty snow bunny. She says that she is speaking for her friend, who finds Pete to be the most attractive man in the bar. The snow bunny walks back to her friend while Pete and Zach look at the shy friend to see that she is beautiful. Pete is gloriously delighted at the compliment and asks Zach if they should send her a drink. Zach says no and that things are going really good with Rosie. The snow bunny returns to say that she was wrong and that her friend wasn’t talking about Pete but the man behind Pete. We see the man she meant – he is gorgeous, virile, and sharply-dressed in green. Zach consoles Pete by saying he sees a resemblance.

Billie and the boys go skiing on their own. Her sons ask to go in another direction, and she agrees. As she prepares to go up the lift, she runs into Rosie, and they share the lift together. Billie apologizes for yelling at Pete in front of her. Rosie completely understands and supports Billie. Billie tries to excuse Pete’s behavior by saying that Pete is still grieving from his father’s death. Still, Rosie is not letting him off so easily. She says it’s black and white.

Zach and Pete go a raging nightclub. The music is loud, people are dancing, and lights are strobing. Pete gets super drunk and spots the gorgeous green man from the bar. Zach stumbles over and strangely interacts with him in a confrontational way but is so drunk he ends up hugging him. It’s so weird that the guy just brushes Pete off. Pete tells Zach the club is dead and that they should leave. Outside, Pete rambles that his kids weren’t natural pregnancies and that he thinks it means he wasn’t meant to have children. He goes on to say that when you have kids, you forget about yourself. Zach, who is not drunk, suggests they go and get some coffee.

At dinner with his family, Pete sloppily cuts the meat on his plate. Every motion is a struggle, and he dissects his meal unappetizingly.
Billie and the kids can’t help but notice. The energy is very stressed and awkward.

While walking down the hall back to their hotel room, Pete admits to Billie that what happened during the avalanche is what she said happened. He tells her that ever since then, he sees how she looks at him and how the kids look at him. He admits that he is a selfish coward. Angrily she responds that he should have said this four days ago and that instead, he made her feel like a complete idiot.

The next morning, Pete asks his family if they should go for a final run of skiing and tackle “the Beast,” which refers to a very challenging, black diamond-ish, expert ski run. Billie and the kids agree to go, and Pete is excited. As the 4 of them go up the lift, Emerson says that he hates skiing. He lists all of the reasons why he hates it, that he’s always wet, etc. We hear another loud bang from the tubes, and the boys instinctively clutch onto Billie.

They all stand silently at the top of “the Beast.” It looks steep and terrifying. Pete decides that he is all skied out and to just take the lift back down. He tells Billie that he will take the boys with him and that they will wait for her to ski down.

While waiting for her, the boys notice that she is taking much longer than normal. They grow concerned. Very faintly, Pete can hear Billie calling out to him. He tells the boys to wait, and he runs up the mountain to her. He finds her sitting comfortably in the snow, waiting for him. Her poles and skis are sticking up out of the snow right by her. She tells him that this is so the boys will look at him differently. She staged this scenario so that Pete could look like he rescued her in front of their sons so that they would respect and love him. Billie goes on to say that if he wants her to look at him differently, he will need to show her something different. He enthusiastically admits that he wants all in with every moment with her. She says to hurry up and rescue her.

He carries her down the mountain. The boys are worried and ask if she is ok. This staged scenario appears to have worked. They think Dad saved Mom. After he puts her down, Billie tells Pete that she left her gear up the mountain. He runs back up to fetch it.

Zach with Rosie and Pete with Billie are saying their goodbyes at the front of the hotel. Suddenly, a giant block of snow dislodges from the high roof, and the four scatter as it falls in the center of them.

With a scared shock, they all look at each other with wide eyes and open mouths.

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