Standing Up, Falling Down

Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz retread well-worn odd-couple territory in this slight but charming comedy

Film Review by Joe Goggins | 27 Feb 2020
  • Standing Up, Falling Down
Film title: Standing Up, Falling Down
Director: Matt Ratner
Starring: Ben Schwartz, Billy Crystal

Happiness fades, but regret lingers: that most sobering of maxims is at the heart of Standing Up, Falling Down and is delivered, ironically, by Billy Crystal’s alcoholic doctor during a moment of intoxicated clarity. This gentle, predictable comedy follows Ben Schwartz as would-be stand-up Scott, who moves back in with his parents at 34 after a years-long stab at making it in Los Angeles ends in failure. Stuck in small-town suspended adolescence, and painfully aware of how far behind his peers have left him, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Crystal’s Marty, an affable dermatologist using booze and weed to mask deeper pain. 

The setting of a quarter-life crisis against its mid-life counterpart is hardly a novel concept and all of the beats are familiar here; there's the rootless creative, wondering whether the grass would have been greener on the other side of the picket fence, and the ageing mentor, left adrift by a lifetime of a stiff upper lip and eager to steer his understudy away from the same pitfalls. 

Accordingly, the chemistry between the leads is key. Schwartz has already proved that his comedy chops extend further than his cartoonish Parks and Recreation character in similar indie fare (Happy Anniversary, Clea DuVall’s underrated The Intervention) and he comfortably holds his own against the evergreen Crystal, twinkle still firmly in his eye. Their back-and-forths illuminate a risk-averse screenplay from Peter Hoare that settles for soft, pleasant melancholy where a more ambitious writer might have exploited the potential for biting pathos. Understated, and perhaps a touch undercooked.

Screening at Glasgow Film Festival: Sun 1 Mar, Cineworld, 5.45pm | Mon 2 Mar, Cineworld, 4.15pm