‘Standing Up, Falling Down’: Film Review
Ultimately pleasant if slight, “Standing Up, Falling Down” arrives at that modest impact despite the fact that the major characters here insist on behaving in ways that are meant to be funny, but too often land more in the “obnoxious” zone. This seriocomedy, with Ben Schwartz as a failed comedian and Billy Crystal as a wacky dermatologist he befriends, is actually stronger in its middleweight dramatic departments than it is in convincing us that these newly-met buddies are really good-hearted charmers — as opposed to tactless misanthropes who’ve quite understandably alienated most of those around them.
A different movie might have actually explored that second, rather bleak reality. But “Standing Up” wants to be cute and heartwarming. That it eventually succeeds, more or less, pays testament to producer turned first-time feature helmer Matt Ratner’s adept handling, and a cast that does their considerable best with iffy material. The screenplay by Kevin Hoare is a step up from that of his prior indie feature, “Killing Hasselhoff,” but still leans too heavily on supposedly outre humor that just isn’t very original or sharp.
Nonetheless, thanks largely to the performers (and Crystal in particular), the end result is diverting enough if unmemorable. Having debuted at Tribeca last spring, the film ends its festival tour this week in Palm Springs, then gets a theatrical release from Shout! starting Feb. 21. Its primary exposure will no doubt be on the small screen, starting with a simultaneous on-demand launch.
Crawling back home to Long Island after failing to make it as a professional comic is Scott (Ben Schwartz), whose self-pity is unalleviated by the fact that neither his variably supportive parents (Debra Monk, Kevin Dunn) or acidly sparring sister (Grace Gummer) ever thought he had a chance. (Nor do we: Both at the start, when he’s seen bombing on stage, and later when he’s supposed to be killing it, Scott’s act is tepid at best.) Perhaps even worse, four years ago he “skipped town like an a–hole” in pursuit of that elusive dream, abandoning the perfect girlfriend (Eloise Mumford as Becky) who’s since moved on with her life and married someone else. Indeed, everyone seems to have arrived at a viable grown-up life with spouse and gainful employment, save Scott.