' ' Cinema Romantico: Pitch Meeting: Ups and Downs

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Pitch Meeting: Ups and Downs

On a recent episode of The Pressbox podcast, co-host Bryan Curtis interviewed NBC’s U.S. Capitol reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell about what it’s like to work on The Hill. In explaining the unwritten rules of asking Senators and Representatives questions, Caldwell revealed that because reporters can only be invited on to chamber elevators by Senators or Representatives, these lifts become something of a convenient escape hatch for politicians seeking to elude giving responses. Sometimes, she explained, the lift operators will even hustle to close the door on behalf of their charges, co-conspirators, so to speak, in evasive tactics. And that, as it absolutely had to, got me to thinking. 

It got me to thinking about a movie, “Ups and Downs”, in which a longtime Hill lift operator, Marvin Alexander (Kevin Corrigan), has befriended myriad politicians over the years, none more than Jim Mullins (Michael Shannon), Republican Senator from the great state of Ohio. An intrepid reporter, new to The Hill beat, from The District Blade, Taylor Stallings (Abbi Jacobson), has drawn the ire of Senator Mullins for repeatedly trying to hold him accountable for refusing to condemn a President (Jim Gaffigan) who has spent most of his first term trying to sell federal land to Wyndham Hotels & Resorts®. After all, Senator Mullins is a Wyndham® rewards member. And as “Ups and Downs” opens, Taylor is once again peppering the Senator with questions when, desperate to evade her, Mullins steps aboard the elevator as Marvin closes the door in her face, exchanging fist bumps with the Senator. “You’re alright,” says Senator Mullins.

One evening both Marvin and Taylor are dragged to a karaoke bar on 14th St for “Hamilton” Night (celebrate Big Government with the Lowest Prices on beer!). They meet cute and bond over their belief that Sondheim’s “Assassins” is the superior musical, doing karaoke to “The Ballad of Czolgosz.” They fall in love, though Marvin repeatedly states he cannot let her on the elevator without Senator Mullins giving the go-ahead. “It’s the code of The Hill,” says Marvin.

Meanwhile, one day Senator Mullins notices that his nemesis, Democratic Senator Olivia Kratzer (Jada Pinkett Smith), from the Great State of Michigan, invites a reporter onto the elevator, explaining that she made one compromise with a Republican Senator on a particular bill in order to get a dozen other items added to the bill that would benefit her constituents, resulting in a glowing profile. In the Senate dining room, Senator Mullins reluctantly breaks bread with Senator Kratzer about how they can prevent the President’s expressed desire to sell the American side of The Great Lakes to Canada given how would adversely affect each of their states. One condition of their plan, however, is that Senator Mullins must publicly resign his cherished position as Honorary Chairman of the Wyndham® Golf Championship.

When the President, in a desperate bid to interfere with The Hill hearings on his Wyndham® Resorts Scandal, goes on prime time television and tells the nation he has hidden a special prize inside the Capitol Dome and that a huge reward awaits whoever finds it first, the Capitol is besieged the following morning. As alarms sound and people flee, Senator Mullins steps aboard his usual elevator to be whisked to safety. A frightened Taylor looks at the elevator, desperately, and then at Marvin, who looks at Senator Mullins, who finally says between gritted teeth “Permission to step aboard.” 

When the power is cut, the trio is stuck on the elevator, discussing their fears, their desires, their secrets. Senator Mullins admits he wants to cut Defense spending; Taylor admits that even though her Twitter bio says Dog Lover she is really more of a cat person; Marvin admits elevators make him nauseous. 

No comments: