Standing Up, Falling Down fleshes out a narrative that’s been done before, and frankly, it feels like a story that’s a little outdated and a little played out. Scott (Ben Schwartz, “Blue Iguana”) returns home after striking out as a comedian, having to hit the restart button and figure out his life. He meets Marty (Billy Crystal, “Parental Guidance”), and the two become fast friends quickly, their conversations coming across as interactions between father and son. This relationship thrives because each is looking for what the other offers, both broken in their own ways.
Scott’s father (Kevin Dunn, “Keeping Up with the Joneses”) cannot understand his passion, wanting him to take over the business, while Marty’s son won’t talk to him. Marty invites Scott to open up and share, and these moments are sometimes nice to watch, mainly because it is quite apparent that Schwartz and Crystal enjoy each other’s company. Crystal’s screen presence especially helps to elevate the film’s material and is a reminder what an absolute professional he is, but even he can’t mask what an absolute slog the dialogue is. None of the film’s moments connect meaningfully, and it also plods along in a completely predictable way.
Both men are comedic talents, yet Standing Up, Falling Down isn’t particularly funny. Drunk peeing in a sink, getting caught smoking marijuana and swallowing it, lamenting the same old issues of social media — are these bits supposed to send me into fits of laughter? Schwartz’ open mic segments aren’t especially riveting either, it certainly doesn’t warrant claims of greatness or such loud guffaws from audience members — oh right they’re actors. Please know that it pains me to say this because I love Ben Schwartz.
Scott and his sister Megan (Grace Summer, “The Long Dumb Road”) have a love-hate sibling-rivalry thing going on, so every time they meet they have a bicker contest. And when I say every time, I mean every single time. It gets a bit irksome when this is always the kind of interaction they muster with each other. Sure they say they love each other after the back and forth yelping is over, but first-time feature director Matt Ratner doesn’t give them the space to be truly loving and tender to one another.
Standing Up, Falling Down does seem to be reaching for a slice of life narrative, à la “Paterson,” but it reads more like melodrama. At the end I am unsure as to what I am supposed to take away from what I’ve just watched. Is it about regret over the treatment of certain relationships? Are we being told to chase contentment and not greatness? Or should I just take the title at face value, and understand that sometimes we stand up only to fall down again?
Maybe it’s like Fitzgerald wrote in his novel “The Great Gatsby.” “We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” We move forward only to propel backwards. Scott and Marty appear to make strides, but this all culminates in futility. The drawback here is that unlike Gatsby, there isn’t anything meaningful to be found in their journeys, which is such a shame.