Released earlier in 2020 and lost in the shuffle created by the pandemic, "Standing Up, Falling Down" is a great film to stumble across (it can be found on Amazon Prime, Starz, or Hulu Premium). It features a sharp, funny script (first-time feature-film screenwriter, Peter Hoare) and a deeply touching, surprisingly effective performance by none other than Billy Crystal.
Scott (Ben Schwartz, who also voiced Sonic the Hedgehog this year) is a struggling stand-up comedian, back home from an effort to "make it" in LA and now living with his parents Gary and Jeanie (small but poignant performances from "Veep"'s Kevin Dunn and Debra Monk). Scott trades barbs with his sister, Megan (Grace Gummer), who refers to him as "comedy's slowest-rising star." By chance, Scott meets Marty (Crystal), a widowed dermatologist and social butterfly. The two form a strange friendship as they try helping each other navigate the ups and downs of love, life, failure and success.
Crystal is always hilarious, and this character is his juiciest and most well-rounded in years. He infuses Marty with a sadness that only comes with age and experience, and he creates one of the most memorable screen characters of 2020. His chemistry with Schwartz is palpable, and their interactions account for several of the film's laugh-out-loud moments. But there are some deeper things going on here than your average "buddy comedy," and first-time director Matt Ratner shifts tone between comedy and drama with a deft hand.
Scott and Marty need each other, in ways that are quite rare for these types of films. Scott is the son Marty never had, or instead, never had the chance to have after squandering years of his life. Marty is the acceptance that Scott needs, an acceptance that breeds confidence...which happens to be the single most important virtue a stand-up comedian can possess. Even Scott's playfully abusive relationship with his sister feels real, and has weight. No character is wasted, including Becky (Eloise Mumford), Scott's ex-girlfriend whom he abandoned to pursue his dreams.
"Standing Up, Falling Down" is a comfortable film, in that you feel warm and fuzzy in its presence. It's full of likable, relatable and flawed characters, and there are no rosy, happy or easy endings. The lessons learned are tough ones. It might have been overlooked in the chaos of 2020, but do yourself a favor and seek out "Standing Up, Falling Down." Come for Billy Crystal's performance, and stay because you'll just end up wanting to.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.
Starring: Billy Crystal, Ben Schwartz, Grace Gummer, Oloise Mumford, Kevin Dunn.
Directed by Matt Ratner (feature-film debut).
"Standing Up, Falling Down" is now available on VOD.
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