Standing Up, Falling Down

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Standing Up, Falling Down
dir Matt Ratner
scr Peter Hoare
prd John Hermann, Gabrielle Nadig, Chris Mangano, Matt Ratner, Rick Rosenthal
with Billy Crystal, Ben Schwartz, Grace Gummer, Eloise Mumford, John Behlmann, David Castaneda, Debra Monk, Kevin Dunn, Nate Corddry, Caitlin McGee, Leonard Ouzts, Jill Hennessy
release US 21.Feb.20,
UK 3.Apr.20
19/US 1h31

gummer castaneda corddry

schwartz and crystal
Warm and goofy, this gentle comedy centres on an offbeat friendship between two guys at different stages in life who both feel out of sorts. The film has a melancholy tone, mixing humour with day-to-day disappointment. This makes it feel refreshingly un-pushy, finding moments that are funny and dramatic without straining for anything momentous. And Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal give effortlessly engaging performances.
After struggling to make his name as a stand-up, Scott (Schwartz) returns home to his parents (Monk and Dunn) on Long Island. His sister Megan (Gummer) is also back at home and his ex-girlfriend Becky (Mumford) has moved on and married another guy (Behlmann). Surprisingly, Scott finds common ground with dermatologist Marty (Crystal), who's drinking away his life. As Scott tries to relaunch his career as a comedian, Marty is trying to patch things up with his estranged son (Corddry). The question is whether either of them will be allowed to make things right.
This is the kind of movie where unexpected warm laughter erupts at a funeral, the cop who busts you for smoking weed turns out to be dating your sister, and your ex comes to see your stand-up act in a small club. The story is punctuated by amusingly farcical encounters that unfold with an edge of aching sadness. But while the story may be overwritten, packed with deliberate plot points and slightly too-witty dialog, it's also genuinely funny and moving.

The acting is raw across the board, maintaining that brittle line between earthy, character-based jokes and underlying emotions. Schwartz and Crystal are relaxed and honest as wounded, brittle men who are at different stages in their lives. Each is carrying baggage around, trying to overcome their own issues with no help from anyone else. Their friendship plays like a bromance, but is actually darker than that. And their conversations with other people in their lives often turn bleak.

As Marty says, happiness fades and regret lingers. And perhaps this should have been the film's title, as the narrative takes several startlingly grim turns along the way, forcing characters to almost embrace their past mistakes and the pain they have both experienced and caused. Hoare's script is complex and layered, carefully balancing its downbeat plot with moments of lightness in a way that feels both realistic and perhaps pushy. And while where it goes is rather corny, the story and characters worm their way under the skin.

cert 15 themes, language 30.Mar.20

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