On February 19, 2020

The Movie Diary: Downhill

Stepping into the bigtime

by Dom Cioffi

Last week, I traveled to Dallas, Texas, for a business event. It was a quick trip that involved one very long day mingling with people. I arrived the afternoon prior and had dinner that night with several of my coworkers.

Like many work dinners, it was full of diverse conversation with a diverse group of people. Some of the talk centered on business; some of it floated into different areas like politics and sports.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that tension levels skyrocket for some people when politics arises in conversations. Gone are the days when people could casually air their differences with party affiliations or political philosophies. It’s now a toxic environment that can blow up in an instant if opposing viewpoints begin to clash.

To be honest, I’d much prefer to talk about sports. I’ve always felt politics required immense back-study in order to present an educated viewpoint. I find most people either follow party lines or stick to whatever soundbites they’ve heard on the news. Rarely are people experts on the topics they are expounding on, so intellectual debate suffers.

I freely admit that on many political subjects, I simply don’t have enough information to present an educated argument. So, by default, I listen more than I talk.

Thankfully, at this dinner social graces won out and none of the political talk resulted in bad feelings. If anyone harbored any resentments, they did a good job hiding them.

The next day, our event lasted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no breaks. Once everything concluded, talk began about that night’s dinner. While I enjoyed the group I was with, I was too exhausted to engage in anymore conversation, so I gracefully bowed out.

I took a cab back to my hotel and headed over to the elevator to go up to my room. While I was riding the elevator, I noticed a calendar taped to the inside highlighting local events for the month of February. My eyes glanced to that day’s date and in bold letters I read, “Mavs vs Grizzlies at the American Airlines Center.”

When I got to my room, I searched on my phone to see where the stadium was located and discovered that it was only a half mile away from my hotel. I then went to StubHub and found that I could get an upper deck ticket for $24. Within minutes, I had decided that I would be watching an NBA basketball game that evening.

I walked to the stadium in less than 20 minutes and found my way to my seat, which was in the nosebleed section. I watched the first quarter then decided to grab some food. A beer and BBQ baked potato set me back $22 – only $2 less than the cost of admission.

The halftime show was unlike anything I had ever seen. Two women came out with trained cats and proceeded to make them do tricks like walking a tightrope and jumping over small barrels. Neither of the cats looked to be particularly happy and, in fact, appeared to be highly irritated by the whole event.

After halftime, I began to get annoyed with the family behind me because the kids were relentlessly shaking noise makers. I had enough midway through the third quarter, so I left to walk around the stadium.

During my travels, I found my way to the luxury box seat level and began to look around. I suppose I looked like I belonged because no one said anything to me. Eventually I walked past an open door where I could see that everyone inside had left. Out of curiosity, I decided to walk in to see what the view was like.

I stood at the end of the box and marveled at the view. The box to my right and box to my left were both full of people enjoying the game, but no one seemed to notice I was there. After a couple minutes, I decided to sit down.

Needless to say, I watched the rest of the game all alone in a luxury box. I checked the fridge for beer but came up empty. By the time I got back to my room, I was $50 poorer but rewarded far beyond my expectations.

This week’s film, “Downhill,” unfortunately did not exceed any expectations and was, in fact, a complete letdown. While it looked good on paper, Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, starring as a married couple who are in the throes of a relationship crisis, never seemed to come together.

Most people will see the two stars of this movie and immediately think, “comedy” – and rightfully so given their acting history. However, “Downhill” is more of a drama with the quirks of a comedy spliced in intermittently.

As much as I wanted to like this film, I didn’t. And neither did anyone else apparently, as the film tanked in its first weekend.

A sad and despondent “C-” for “Downhill.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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