Standing Up, Falling Down
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
Stars: Billy Crystal, Ben Schwartz, Eloise Mumford, Grace Gummer
Writer: Peter Hoare
Director: Matt Ratner
Billy Crystal has been in our lives for so long it’s easy to forget he doesn’t make that many movies these days, but he’s found a worthy return in this big-hearted comedy about two hard-drinking, emotionally tormented loners who, despite themselves, strike up the most meaningful friendship of their lives.
One is Scott (Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz), a struggling young standup comic returning home to Long Island after finally dropping the mic on his career in Los Angeles. A booze-infused tavern encounter introduces him to a garrulous barfly named Marty (Crystal), who turns out to be a successful local dermatologist (thank goodness he doesn’t have to operate on anybody, given his systemic blood alcohol level).
There’s not much plot to speak of in Standing Up, Falling Down; we spend most of our time becoming acquainted with the two guys and the various characters in their orbits, particularly Scott’s oddly distant father (Kevin Dunn), his mother (Debra Monk), who is weirdly delighted her son has taken up residence in his old bedroom, and his sister (Grace Gummer), with whom he engages in merciless insult duels that usually end up with one of them saying, “I love you, I guess.”
As for Marty, he’s twice widowed with two grown kids who have little or no use for him — a status that dates back to the dark days of his first marriage. Aside from the occasional one-night stand, Marty’s most constant companions are Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, and it is his considered opinion that they all deserve each other.
Crystal, now an elder statesman of comedy, has easy chemistry with 30-something Schwartz. Both actors possess that unique type of screen presence that makes you happy just to spend time with them, and indeed that’s the best thing that Standing Up, Falling Down has to offer. We hang with these guys watching a ball game on TV, going for a few car rides, playing some bar games, and smoking some pot (the latter resulting in an absolutely hilarious sight gag). Eventually they come to share more meaningful moments, as casual friends become intimate confidantes.
In the end, each man is inspired by the other to move ahead with his life rather than remain in the self-defensive foxhole he’s dug for himself.
The rap on Crystal has long been that he too often — and too sharply — veers between broad comedy and maudlin sentimentality. But age has been kind to him in that respect. That jarring dichotomy is present here, as well, but somehow it’s more understandable in someone like Marty, a guy whose long life has encompassed both delirious joy and crushing sadness, and whose memories of those extremes can arrive in rapid succession — and perhaps even simultaneously.
Featured image: Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal in Standing Up, Falling Down, Courtesy Shout! Studios