We missed you, Billy.
Comic actor Billy Crystal isn’t doing many movies these days, his string of smashes (“City Slickers”) and misfires (“Mr. Saturday Night”) in the rear view mirror.
“Standing Up, Falling Down” gives Crystal the supporting role, but he dominates the indie comedy in more ways than one. He still can’t bully past the towering stack of cliches before him. His bond with his younger co-star, though, is so good, so memorable, you wish they skipped this story and went on a road trip instead.
Ben Schwartz plays Scott, an aspiring stand up comic who returns home after crashing and burning in L.A. Right away we’re on familiar ground, and “Standing Up” isn’t keen on making things much fresher. We’re told Scott still pines for the girl he left behind (Eloise Mumford), can’t connect with his gruff dad (Kevin Dunn) and doesn’t know what to do with his 30-something self.
Need more recycled elements? Scott’s comedy stinks, but it soars when he opens up about his personal life on stage.
Holy Mrs. Maisel!
The only thing missing is a Mrs. Robinson type to turn Scott’s head. Maybe that subplot didn’t make the final cut.
— LBMTY (@LongBeachMTY) February 13, 2020
Scott has a meet cute bro moment with Marty (Crystal), a dermatologist and part-time stalker. Scott and Marty connect, in part, because the screenplay demands such contrivances. The film is set on Long Island, a place where you keep bumping into the people you know.
Schwartz’s lost boy pose proves authentic, leaving him open to Marty’s parental advice. Crystal’s character, in turn, numbs his personal pain with booze and wisecracks, and not always in that order.
As long as the camera focuses on them, “Standing Up” is a minor gem. The rest of the narrative keeps elbowing into the frame, alas.
And poor Jill Hennessy, cast as a sultry older woman “captivated” by Marty’s Karaoke charms. Her reappearance later in the film, albeit briefly, might be the funniest moment in the movie.
It’s not intentional.
FAST FACT: Billy Crystal showed an early interest in co-starring in “Standing Up, Falling Down.” The comedy icon personally requested Ben Schwarz join him on the project.
Crystal taps everything in his tool kit to bring Marty to life, and that’s no small statement. The actor’s performance is as vulnerable as we’ve ever seen the comic legend. His lack of vanity suits both the character and the film, and elements of his past roles flash by in ways that break our hearts.
Billy Crystal is ageless. Marty? Not so much.
He hasn’t cast aside his Borscht Belt shtick, of course, but it’s woven seamlessly into this tortured soul.
The third act mostly goes where we expect, with a maudlin detour along the way. The resolutions neither enlighten or engage. Instead, we’re left wishing the film’s lost souls never left the bar where they met.
HiT or Miss: “Standing Up, Falling Down” gives Billy Crystal his richest role in ages, but that’s where the good news fades.