A story about the ups and downs of a young American skier named David Chappellet (Robert Redford), as he competes in various pre-Olympic trials, in Europe, "Downhill Racer" is a film I liked not at all. The story is emotionally cold and very impersonal. And David is smug, arrogant, self-centered, egotistical, and shallow.
The plot is incredibly perfunctory. Lots of minor, inconsequential routine consumes the film. Characters spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for something to happen, which drains away any intended tension or suspense. Further, there are dozens of downhill racing scenes, all similar, and largely interchangeable, which, among other things, renders an unnecessarily repetitive plot. The story doesn't really build, but stays more or less static, until the unsatisfying ending. And the script injects way too much press coverage into the plot, which adds to the impersonal tone.
However much Redford struts, postures, and prances around, he's not at all convincing, because he looks about twenty years too old for the role. To a limited extent this is offset by the presence of lovely Camilla Sparv, in a support role.
With wide-angle lens, the camera stays way back from the action, in many scenes, acting as spectator, instead of getting up close and personal with the characters. Colors are bright, vivid, almost garish. One thing I did like was the placement of a camera on a skier in a couple of scenes, to give viewers a feel for what it's like to ski 80 m.p.h. down a mountainside.
Watching "Downhill Racer" is not unlike watching a routine ski race on television, impersonal and voyeuristic. The film accentuates the competition, the spectacle, with a main character that is not likable, and a story that is impersonal and lacks thematic depth. Redford doesn't help matters. My impression is that the film was basically his cinematic play-toy, a vanity project, given his personal interest in skiing.
Action / Drama / Sport
Action / Drama / Sport
David Chappellet is a mean-spirited skier, who profits from another skier's injury to gain a spot on the American Olympic team. His roommate sums up his goals when he observes of David, "He's not for the team, and he never will be"; but precisely who the David is that David is so fiendishly striving for we're never to learn. He develops a short-lived relationship with Carole Stahl, a glamorous European woman even more capricious than himself. Chappellet's identity trouble are exacerbated by the fact that he is an "Event" as well as a personality; and more astute minds than his own have difficulty where the one leaves off and the other takes over. Director Michael Richie's ("The Candidate") feature film debut.
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January 30, 2016 at 05:10 PM