Review: Standing Up, Falling Down

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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PLOT: When a failed stand-up comedian (Ben Schwartz) is forced to move back home with his parents, he makes an unlikely friend in the alcoholic local dermatologist (Billy Crystal).

REVIEW: STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN is very reminiscent of a style of indie comedy-drama that was in vogue for a long time – that of the failed creative going back to his (or her) small town to reconnect with his parents and/or childhood sweetheart. More often than not it revolved around the death/illness of a loved one, with THE HOLLARS, OTHER PEOPLE, GARDEN STATE, THE SKELETON TWINS and others being good examples of this well-worn and often effective genre. In recent years though the genre has become a bit of a cliché, which makes it feel like STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN is coming out a few years too late, as had it come out three or four years ago, it might have had a better shot at being seen (it makes it's VOD debut February 21st).


While not terribly original, STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN is still an effective “dramedy”. The premise has been done before, but writer Peter Hoare and director Matt Ratner take a low key approach to, like it or not, an experience many creative trying to make it on their own in a place like L.A will have to live through based on how hard it is to make a living in the biz unless you get very lucky or come from wealth.

Ben Schwartz is likable as the failed stand-up, who knows deep down he maybe didn’t have quite what it took to make it. It’s a performance that’s laced with only a touch of self-pity, with Schwartz skilled at finding a middle ground for this kind of character. He plays the kind of guy who probably would be the funniest guy in your group of friends, but not funny enough to kill night-after-night on the stand-up circuit. He plays it with just the right amount of resignation to his fate, although the romantic subplot is a bit convenient, with his beautiful ex (Eloise Mumford) shown to be a little too eager to pick up where they left off despite making a good life without him.

If STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN picks up any steam though, it’ll likely be due to Billy Crystal in an atypically gritty part as the local dermatologist who becomes Schwartz’s drinking buddy. Crystal’s been offscreen for a long time and he’s dug deep for his role here, eschewing any sense of vanity (either acting without a hairpiece or with an added bald pate) but still having that rakish charm that made him an icon in movies like CITY SLICKERS and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (one of the great rom-com).

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He’s the whole show here, with him reliably funny but also giving the character some pathos. He plays a falling-down drunk isolated from his two grown-up kids after a tragedy involving their mother, and Crystal doesn’t go overboard trying to make the character lovable, even if, by virtue of Crystal playing him, he still is to some degree. He’s got one especially good scene later in the film when he confronts his hostile son (Nate Corddry) that, refreshingly, doesn’t end with a tearful reconciliation and seems true to life in some respects. One hopes Crystal does more work like this as his performance is so good that, had this gotten a more prominent release, he could have gotten some awards recognition.

It's the father-son dynamic that gives STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN its steam, with Crystal and Schwartz having more than decent chemistry. They look like they could realistically be friends even their comedy stylings are quite different, with Schwartz more the neurotic type while Crystal is smoother and more self-confident. Crystal seems to relish the opportunity he's being given here and he never once falls back on shtick. This is probably the most dramatic he's been since MR. SATURDAY NIGHT. 

Suffice to say, Billy Crystal makes STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN worth checking out, but even without him it’s a likable-enough movie, even if it’s ultimately familiar and bogged down by a melodramatic, all-too-convenient ending that’s a disappointment considering what came before. Still, it’s never anything less than watchable, with uniformly good performances and a snappy pace. It’s a formula indie in many respects but even still, it’s worth giving a watch on the merits of Crystal’s performance alone.

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.