We all find friends in the most unlikely of places…
Every once in a while, there’s a little movie or two that can fly under the radar and really wow you…and that’s why our jobs even exist. Standing Up, Falling Down is that kind of movie as it gives us a funny yet honest look at those crossroads in our lives that we all hit in one way, shape or form and the courage we need to move past them.
After four years of chasing his stand-up comedy dream in Los Angeles, 34-year-old Scott Rollins (Ben Schwartz) has crashed and burned. Hard. Left with little money and a fledgling at best “career”, Scott has no choice but to regroup, lick his wounds, and return home to his parent’s house in Long Island. While trying to figure out what to do next, Scott pines after his ex, Becky Brookes (Eloise Mumford), a successful photographer who has since married a former mutual friend. On a night out at the bar, Scott strikes up an unlikely friendship with an eccentric dermatologist, Marty (Billy Crystal), who has regrets of his own. Marty and Scott both help each other find the courage to face the failures in their lives.
While it’s not the kind of movie that will ever be accused of reinventing the cinematic wheel, Standing Up, Falling Down has real power to it because it’s about life; which we get to see unfold on the screen with an unabashed honesty and genuine humor as it reminds us to occasionally have a laugh, even when life keeps kicking us down and we really have no reason to.
First time feature director Matt Ratner announces himself on the scene as a genuine storyteller and someone to work with. It’s a pretty basic story, but the script from Peter Hoare successfully avoids any of the predictable tropes of the genre and allows it all to unfold with a real natural tone. It all has good flow and it’s easier said than done to direct something where you just stay out of the actor’s way; that’s what Ratner does here and it shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s never a film that feels like it is ‘trying’ to be funny or ‘trying’ to be dramatic, it allows everything to happen naturally, which is one of the reasons why it is so easy to get invested in the characters we see on screen.
With the duo of Ben Schwartz as our hero Scott and Billy Crystal as his bar buddy and unexpected kindred spirit just make for an effortless combo on screen. Their interplay is funny and honest without TRYING to be funny and they embrace the material like they are telling a slice of life that is so relatable on many levels. You can’t help but get behind this awkward friendship as they give us real human characters on screen. One who is pressing the reset button on his life after a failed attempt at a new career and another who is wallowing in a life time of regret and bad choices that he can’t seem to get past. These men found each other at the right time and managed to lift each other up to a different place that wasn’t devoid of the emotional angst that both men are feeling, but a place where it was actually OK to admit it.
For every story of toxic masculinity that we see every day and its negative effects and people and others around them, we need to see ones like this at least to the power of ten. It breaks the misconception of what men can be and gives them room to grow in a career making performance from Schwartz and a reinvigorated Billy Crystal who just proved he’s got some tread left on the tires in a performance that would make his old running buddy Robin Williams proud. It just might be the best we’ve seen Billy since When Harry Met Sally.
Standing Up, Falling Down isn’t the kind of movie that’s going to draw you in with a lot of flash and bang, but it’s the kind that needs to be seen as it allows men on screen, to be emotional, filled with doubt and fallible in a very honest way. It’s something we need more of because it reminds us that in order to be nicer and more excepting of those around us, we need to be nicer and more accepting of ourselves and the personal flaws that we all live with inside of our own heads. That’s what Scott and Marty try to do, that’s what we all need to do.
Standing Up, Falling Down is playing a limited theatrical run in Toronto now and is available on VOD platforms as well.