Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal star as a failed comedian and a dermatologist who strike up in a friendship in this affable comedy
Whenever somebody claims a film is “ideal plane viewing,” it’s almost always meant in a derogatory sense – an implication that toilet breaks, screaming babies, and occasionally nodding off won’t detract from the experience. But it can also indicate a film that’s easy to watch, and works just as well on a small screen as it would in a movie theatre.
Standing Up, Falling Down is a plane movie in the latter sense – and in this new self-isolating world, with planes mostly grounded, and too much time on our hands, we should welcome all the good plane movies we can get, even if it means viewing them at home.
This one stars Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation) as Scott, a down-on-his-luck comedian who returns to his family home on Long Island following career stagnation and a messy breakup. If you’re thinking of Garden State or Elizabethtown, you’re on the right track. The difference is that this film lacks their pretentiousness and self-conscious quirk, replacing it with an almost laboratory-designed affability. It’s here that Scott meets Marty (Billy Crystal), an alcoholic dermatologist, whilst drinking in a bar. The two hit it off, quickly become friends, and life lessons are exchanged over boozy nights on the town. You get the idea.
Add to this equation an overbearing but kind-hearted mom, a quipping best friend, a dad who can’t talk about his feelings, and a sibling (Meryl Streep’s daughter, Grace Gummer) with whom to squabble. And of course it’s inevitable that Scott will run into his ex-girlfriend at the mall when he’s at his lowest point. These elements might have the air of parody, but the movie chooses to play them straight. There’s also the matter of a cheap TV look, some dated jokes, and the lead character’s apparently hilarious stand-up routine being not that funny at all (the audience might be laughing at Scott’s set; we are not).
And yet, in spite of its well-worn tropes, Standing Up, Falling Down somehow manages to take all this and make it relatively charming. It is not as charming as say, Paddington (what is?), but it’s charming enough to warrant 90 minutes in the company of Schwartz, an actor whose natural disposition forces you to root for him even when he’s playing passive-aggressive, or slightly creepy, and Crystal, who seems more engaged with this material than you’d expect from somebody who rarely seems engaged with… well, anything?
Director Matt Ratner and writer Peter Hoare appear to have set out with no higher aim than to create something watchable. It almost wears its directorial anonymity as a badge of honour. It’s a film as aimless as its main character, but there’s such warmness to the material, and to the characters, both central and secondary, that makes watching not unlike tuning into an episode of your favourite sitcom. Schwartz is genuinely funny outside of the stand-up scenes, and has real chemistry with Crystal, even when the movie (bizarrely) opts to keep them apart in its second half.
I’m not sure it ever justifies its own existence, or that it has much of a point, or even anything to say. But against the odds (and true to its title) this thing is standing up more than it’s falling down.
Standing Up, Falling Down is now streaming on VOD platforms.Where to watch online