Will “Force Majeure” Win an Oscar?

Les Arcs is a upscale ski resort in the French Alps.  Consisting of several villages scattered on a mountainside, in a beautiful area, it hosts 237 separate ski runs, 171 lifts, and 470 very loud snow-making cannon.  It has numerous types of accommodations, most very nice, and a plethora of restaurants and after-ski venues.

It is also the filming site for the Swedish film “Force Majeure”, which we saw yesterday.

We went to see “Force Majeure” for a number of reasons.  Very good reviews.  A 7.8 rating on IMDb, and a 93% positive rating from the critics according to Rotten Tomatoes.

In spite of all of this, I thought this a really dumb, quite boring movie.  The only reason I kept my eyes open throughout the entire two hours was that the film is in Swedish and I didn’t want to miss the subtitles for fear that I would be lost forever.

The basic story line (SPOILER, I guess):  A Swedish couple and their two young children travel to Les Arcs for a much needed winter vacation – the husband has been working much too hard.  It starts out fairly idyllic but one lunch time at the outside cafe on the restaurant nearest the mountain top, a controlled avalanche (created by the artificial snow machines to even out the snow on the runs) appears out of control and heading right for the diners, results in a panic among the diners.  The wife hunkers down protecting the two children, while the husband grabs his cell phone and runs inside by himself.

It turns out that the avalanche was not really out of control, but that the fog from the snow enveloped the cafe, scaring everyone.  When it dissipates a few minutes later, everyone goes back to their tables.  Their food is still there untouched.

But the world has changed.  The father turns out to be a coward, leading to several days of conflict and denial between the pair, disruption of their usual good humor, disturbance of the psyches of their children.  The addition of friends from home, also vacationing at Les Arcs, only increases the confusion, and sows discomfort in their friends’ relationship as well.  To watch it all is very uncomfortable.

Perhaps things get sorted out on their last day on the slopes, a very foggy day, where they have all pledged to stay in sight of each other so that no one gets lost, with the father in front and the mother at the rear.  But it doesn’t quite work, as the father and children realize that the mother is not behind them.  From afar we hear her call for help.  The father backtracks and comes carrying her in his arms.  What has happened?  Has she fallen?  Broken her leg or ankle?  No, none of the above.  It turns out she has been faking, testing her husband’s hopefully new found mettle.  And, lo and behold, he passes with flying colors.

So all will be well from now on?  So it seems.  Until…..

On the way down from the resort at the end of their holiday, the bus takes the hairpin turns with too much back and forth, and starting and stopping, going backward and forward.  Can this driver drive?  How dangerous is this descent?  The mother is convinced that the bus won’t make it one piece, so what does she do?  Demand that the bus driver stop and let HER off.  She has turned into her husband.

A pretty weak story line, you say?  I’d agree.  And the slow pace of the film, the sparse dialogue of the actors, and the occasional mumbling (I guess it doesn’t matter with subtitles) weaken it, for me, further.

But I must be missing something, right.  Favored for an Oscar, such high ratings on the usually reliable websites.

But, no, I think I didn’t miss a thing.  Not recommended (except for the beautiful mountains scenery).


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