Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Matt Ratner from a script by Peter Hoare, Standing Up, Falling Down is a charming new dramedy brought to life by a superb cast. Featuring a career-best turn from Ben Schwartz and a memorable bout from Billy Crystal, the script may be a bit conventional at times, but it is packed with funny and endearing moments nevertheless.
The film follows a struggling stand-up comedian who returns to his hometown, where he befriends a charming alcoholic dermatologist, allowing both of them to learn something about themselves. The main arc of the movie is relatively safe and Hoare ultimately doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table in relation to these themes, but the emotions in the film still ring very true.
As a whole, the movie is very entertaining. As one would expect with the main character being a stand-up comedian, jokes are cracked throughout. Perhaps most impressive is that the film manages to deal with some of these serious topics, like alcoholism, in a way that is humorous but still feels completely respectful and justified.
At times, it does feel like the movie bites off a bit more than it can chew thematically, but this is largely because of the fact that it is trying to balance two bulky storylines, each of which has a great deal happening in it. Some of the film’s ideas, such as those approaching family and regret, are very interesting, while others, like one involving the idea of legacy, don’t entirely pan out.
Arguably the main reason why the movie is so effective is that the character development is so strong. Even though both of the lead characters have a laundry list of flaws, they are compelling because of the friendship that forms between them. Undoubtedly the best moments in the film are those that allow the two leads ample time to bounce off of each other, as these are often the funniest (and sometimes heartfelt) scenes.
Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the phenomenal chemistry between the two stars Schwartz and Crystal. Until this point, Schwartz has been known primarily as a (very funny) background player, but this movie proves that he has the chops and range to lead. Crystal is an absolute legend, and it is amazing to see him on screen again (in a role worth his talents).
On a technical level, the film does lean a bit too heavily into the sentimentality of the genre, particularly in relation to the score and cinematography, although the script and cast are able to prevent the final product from feeling overly maudlin. The focus of the director here is on the performances, and rightfully so, as this story does not require flashiness.
With Standing Up, Falling Down, director Matt Ratner and writer Peter Hoare have delivered an entertaining and thoughtful drama, even if it follows a well-worn formula. Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz’s performances alone make this movie worth the time, and at only ninety or so minutes, it’s a quick and breezy watch.
Standing Up, Falling Down hits theaters and VOD on February 21.