Billy Crystal returns to big screen in ‘Standing Up, Falling Down’
After all the excitement of the Oscars, a new movie year can settle into a predictable pattern until spring and summer blockbusters begin to appear.
In many years, studios fill this quiet period with releases that could get lost in the noise of comic book films, animated movies and award contenders that crowd the concluding months of the calendar. Of the new films now sneaking onto local screens and online streaming, Billy Crystal’s “Standing Up, Falling Down” deserves a close look. This thoughtful drama about a surprising friendship doesn’t rely on loud explosions or special effects to hold our interest. Instead it simply describes a few weeks in the lives of people who have given up on themselves and the rest of the world.
Scott - earnestly played by comedian Ben Schwartz of “Parks and Recreation” fame on television - has a knack for failure. While he would love to succeed as a stand-up comic, the young man can’t catch a break. He regrets leaving a close relationship with a woman who now finds herself married to someone else. And he can’t figure out, when he comes home to see his parents, why his father can’t manage to stand up and give a hug.
Marty - beautifully created by Billy Crystal - knows how to survive. He has, through his many years, demonstrated a will to live through many tragedies, including the deaths of two wives, the estrangements from two children and a dependence on alcohol that, somehow, helps soften the sadness. Still he manages to sustain a practice as a dermatologist but little else. This lonely man desperately wants to reach out. But who will want to know him?
How these two lost souls find each other - and learn from their evolving friendship - gives this quiet film something special to experience. So little actually happens in this movie that there is time for everything to occur as these men, separated by many years, discover how friendship can reach beyond boundaries. And how, from each other, they can begin to learn how accepting our weaknesses can be a first step to embracing the humanity of others.
For movie lovers, “Standing Up, Falling Down” offers a marvelous chance to welcome Billy Crystal back to the screen. This engaging actor - so popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s - jumps into this role with the enthusiasm of a young actor. Always able to reach through the camera, Crystal uses every expression to build a compelling view of a man who doesn’t intend to disappoint those around him but easily disconnects. Without letting his personality interfere with the performance, Crystal reminds us why we like him on screen, as we believe just about anything he shares. For Schwartz, as well, the movie is a bit of a breakthrough, letting him reach beyond his television persona. Together, the actors bring precise timing and authenticity to situations that, in lesser hands, could come across as artificial.
Content: High. This look at a unique friendship explores how it can feel to confront disappointment and move forward.
Entertainment: High. Thanks to a strong cast, and an insightful script, the film has quite a bit to say about what it takes to thrive as we mature. At any age.
Message: Medium. While the film entertains as it comments, we are left with a clear view of what it takes to accept the letdowns that we face every day.
Relevance: High. Any opportunity to introduce older children to issues of choice and disappointment can be a welcome visit to the movies.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you share this film with your older children, talk with them about the consequences of decisions.
This quiet time at the movies lets us catch up on films we missed from last year as well as welcome new ones that deserve to be noticed. You’ll be glad you spent time with “Standing Up, Falling Down.” And, when it ends, you may want to give someone in your life a quick call.
“Standing Up, Falling Down” is not rated but does contain some strong language. The film runs 91 minutes. It is available in theaters and online.