Sometimes, a cast’s chemistry is the main thing driving a movie forward, and such is the case with “Standing Up, Falling Down,” a familiar story made memorable and entertaining by a sharp script and the lead performances from Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz.
Directed by Matt Ratner, “Standing Up, Falling, Down” opens with Scott (Schwartz) returning to his Long Island home after a failed attempt to make it as a stand-up comedian in LA. He reluctantly moves back in with his parents—his smothering mother Jeanie (Debra Monk) and his dad Gary (Kevin Dunn), who wants him to find a “real job”—and sister Megan (Grace Gummer), and is faced with the prospect of potentially seeing his ex-girlfriend Becky (Eloise Mumford)—who he left for his career—again. A night out at the local bar leads him to Marty (Crystal), a dermatologist with a sense of humor that matches Scott’s. Marty is facing his own personal traumas: his alcoholism after the death of his first wife has estranged him from his son and daughter. Scott and Marty bond over their shared interests and their struggles and help each other face their pasts to make a new future.
Writer Peter Hoare’s script is filled with humorous situations derived from the characters’ oddities and dialogue that is delivered snappily by Schwartz and Crystal. The two play off each other perfectly. Schwartz more than proves his capability at leading a film on his own. His character has a self-deprecating sense of humor, but there’s an undercurrent of anxiety behind his upbeat exterior that makes him relatable. Crystal gives one of the best performances of his career in a role that balances comedy with genuine emotion. He’s the main reason most people will likely decide to watch this film, sure, but while he gets plenty opportunity to be the funny guy we’re all familiar with, he really nails the scenes in which he confronts his personal demons and successfully drums up a lot of empathy for his character. The relationship between Scott and Marty develops quickly but very naturally, with the pair coincidentally running into each other a couple of times before their encounters become voluntary, and eventually become friendship. Solid support is found in Gummer’s wise-cracking Megan, David Castañeda, who plays Megan’s cop boyfriend Ruis, and John Behlmann, whose character Owen is now married to Becky. Ratner provides good direction and pacing, alternating wacky scenarios with scenes that feel more real or more introspective.
It’s always nice to see something that is familiar and maybe even a little predictable made fresh, and “Standing Up, Falling Down” is just that. It’s a crowd-pleaser with a good message about picking yourself up again after failure, even though aspects of the ending are a bit of a downer. The cast may be what you come for and what you stay for, but there’s a lot of good stuff to be found in the rest of the movie too.
“Standing Up, Falling Down” is available to rent on demand and watch with Starz. Runtime: 91 minutes. Not rated.
Media review screener courtesy Shout! Factory.