Friday, November 7, 2014

Movie Review: 'Force Majeure' Piles on Dark Laughs For Vacation

The avalanche that started it all in "Force Majeure"
Force Majeure (2014, directed by Ruben Östlund. Sweden, in Swedish and English, color, 118 minutes) I saw "Force Majeure", Sweden's submission for the best foreign language film Oscar consideration, during a packed screening as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival this year. It was one of many sellouts during this year's fest and it's easy to see why.

Tomas, his wife, Ebba, and their two children take to the French Alps for a five-day vacation. The first day goes off without a hitch. Plenty of skiing on the beautifully photographed slopes, a hilarious photo opportunity on the mountain, and cranky kids. You know, it's vacation. Then on the second day, the family has lunch outside at the hotel's restaurant when a controlled avalanche happens, but it looks to get too close and everyone starts running, even Tomas. While Ebba protects the kids as a cloud of snow blankets the deck, Tomas grabs his glove and phone and runs like hell.
What happens for the rest of the day, and the three following, is a battle of razor sharp comments and hilarious observations from outsiders that either defend Tomas' actions or bashes them.

On the surface it could sound like a couple trying to rebuild their marriage, but it's actually a hilarious look at two people going to wits about right and wrong, and the eventual self-loathing that takes place. Momentarily think "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" but with less drinking and a lot more chilling laughs.

Johannes Bah Kuhnke (Tomas) and Lisa Loven Kongsli (Ebba) are perfection as the couple under the microscope who can shoot emotional daggers at each other with comedic and dramatic tones, verbal and non-verbal. Just as good, if not better, are the actors who portray Tomas' brother Mats and his girlfriend Fannie, who are so dry and calm about everything, and whose comments to the couple are so hilariously (un)necessary.

One of the best scenes in the film, Mats and Fannie are trying to sleep and they have a funny conversation about their own relationship and how they are with each other. Quite the conversation considering Fannie is younger than Mats and he is going through a divorce.

It's hard to say why this film is funny, but a nosy maintenance man who seems to always bear witness to the couple's arguing provides wordless moments of hilarity. The verbal and non-verbal cues are a dime a dozen that you must see it to get them all. So damn funny and one of the year's best, hands down.

Rating: A

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