New on Amazon Prime, Standing Up, Falling Down is a dramatic comedy starring Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal. The film follows Schwartz’s character, Scott, a struggling 30-something year old comedian who’s just moved back in with his parents after 4 years of eating it in LA. It centres around the friendship he forms with his dermatologist, a reasonably successful and comfortable man with a past filled with regret and sadness. Schwartz and Crystal are the leads, supported by a cast including Grace Gummer, Kevin Dunn, and Eloise Mumford among others. The film is directed by Matt Ratner, and written by Peter Hoare.
This film was a very pleasant not-so-surprise. My expectations were pretty high the second I processed the idea of Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal sharing a screen. I’m a massive fan of both of these actors; at this point I’ll watch really anything that Ben Schwartz is in, and Billy Crystal has, of course, had his place in legend cemented for decades now. It felt, right off the bat, like a perfect meeting of experienced charm and the rising star, and I was excited for it.
Standing Up, Falling Down exactly met those expectations. It’s not a loud film, everything it does it does in understated and relaxed ways. The writing is great, but never in a way that makes you drop what you’re holding. There’s an authenticity, a very real schtick to it, which sparkles in its own way when it needs to and feels as unforced as possible when it doesn’t. Not noticeably extraordinary on its surface, but really sensitively crafted in its quietness. It’s aided in that authentic undertaking by plenty of first-rate performances. Ben Schwartz is excellent, he’s always been hilarious, Jean-Ralphio is still one of the funniest characters in TV history for me, and a lot of that came from his playing of him more than the writing on Parks and Rec. Here, though, Schwartz showed off some real acting chops. His character ultimately has much more dramatic depth than comic relief (drama really is the dominant genre in this film as a whole) and he sells it really well. He’s really well cast in general, you can tell that he knew how to put himself where Scott is in the film, and he brings a quality of acting that I just hadn’t seen form him before. It’s good to know he has that, and hopefully this will launch another part of his career. I’m glad that, during the stand-up scenes, they didn’t go overboard on showcasing any comedy God-like talent. In the scenes where he sucks, he sucks, and there isn’t much more to it, no other way they could’ve reasonably done it, but in the scene at his hometown stage, where we finally see him make an audience laugh, I’m glad they kept his talent in that moment to a realistic level. It made the thing just feel very real, he wasn’t Robin Williams, but he was nice, pretty funny, showing potential, not a finished product, and that felt very true to the spirit of the film.
Billy Crystal is wonderful in this film. Speaking of his dear friend Robin Williams, he brought a quality to the screen that was part of what made Robin stand out, a kind of melancholy and sorrow with a depth that could only come straight from the soul. He’s another example of perfect casting in this film, he brings everything he needs to bring to the table; the right amount of funny, the right amount of brokenness, and the right amount of support and wisdom for a character like Scott. He’s got this twinkle in his eye that lends to likability, which he weaponize and turn into great sadness when he needs to, bringing to mind one particular scene that had me tearing up. He’s a special actor.
But something I’d like to highlight about this film is the supporting cast, which next to the two leads, do a splendid job holding scenes and enhancing everything about the film. Grace Gummers and Kevin Dunn are great as Scott’s sister and father. They aren’t complex relationships, but they’re subtly and sensitively done and really well performed. It’s some of those little things that are done really well that make the film all the more pleasant. Nate Corddry is really effective as Marty’s son, despite not actually having that much to say he manages to bring out a dynamic, and it’s just done very well (but I might be biased, seeing as I know Corddry from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Gotta love the Sorkin alums). I’d also shout out Nathan James and Hassan Johnson, who contribute a large part to a scene that really anchors the film, who again only have a couple scenes. I think anyone who sees this film will agree with me in saying that Ruis (David Castañeda) deserves his own movie, and possibly a spin-off TV show, charting his rise to become ruler of the known universe, and even John Behlmann, whose character is the definition of functional, gives him life when he gets his chance. All the supporting cast make themselves feel felt in this film, the mark of a strong collective performance.
All in all, this was a great film that brought a lot of interesting emotional ideas across in wholesome, heartfelt ways. The tone of this film is what makes is remarkable, remarkably unremarkable (I cringed writing that line just as much as you cringed reading it). It just sort of sits there, unobtrusive, as these people live their lives. There’s something wonderfully authentic about it, something that makes this place and these people feel so real. The cost of that authenticity is the chance to make it remarkable, and that it is not. It’s just nice and relaxed, a lightly funny, pensive experience, that I enjoyed a great deal. I appreciate that they left it more or less unresolved, leaving room for the story to go north or south as it might or might not. There was a nearly audible shoulder-shrug. An “and it goes on,” of sorts.
It’s been a little while since I’ve written a review, and I’m glad this was the one first one back. Standing Up, Falling Down is on Amazon Prime India (and maybe other countries, you’d have to check). I’d strongly recommend giving it a look, it’s a sweet, wholesome, unobtrusively emotional film; a good time that hits every emotional note it aimed at.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 76/100