Thursday, May 9, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: Standing Up, Falling Down

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

Standing Up, Falling Down
Directed by Matt Ratner
Spotlight Narrative

Friends come into people’s lives at different points, and sometimes it can be at the most opportune moment. Educational institutions and professional workplaces are the most common places for people to be introduced, but some of the richest friendships begin as the result of happenstance meetings. Drinking at a bar is a great way for people to get to know each other even if they have nothing in common aside from their geographical location, and whether that friendship persists outside of the confines of an alcohol-based establishment can often be a simple matter of chance.

Scott (Ben Schwartz) isn’t doing great as a stand-up comedian, returning home from Los Angeles to live with his parents in Long Island after his career has stalled. Having been away for a number of years reminds him of what he gave up, namely a wonderful relationship with Becky (Eloise Mumford), who is now married. At a bar one night, he meets Marty (Billy Crystal), a widowed dermatologist who drinks a good deal more than he should. Though they are from different generations, Scott and Marty form a fast friendship based on sarcasm and a lack of serious judgment for each other’s choices and paths in life.

This concept has been done many times before, but this iteration feels fresh thanks both to a great script by Peter Hoare and the smart pairing of two genuinely funny actors. Crystal, who shared that he has only ever before attempted a similarly serious role in “Mr. Saturday Night,” made a number of terrific comedies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but his more recent parts, like that of a rabbi in “Untogether” at Tribeca last year, have felt much less satisfying for his talents. Schwartz, best known for “Parks and Recreation” and “House of Lies,” also tones down his usual antics to deliver a surprisingly affecting and effective turn. As the closest people in their respective lives, Nate Corddry and Grace Gummer contribute positively to a strong ensemble.

Films about comedians always have to make a choice about how much they want to indulge their characters’ senses of humor, and this one wisely decides to lean on its other protagonist to deliver most of the jokes. That works enormously well, since it highlights both how Marty has lost control of his life and how Scott is headed nowhere because of his own self-doubt. Together, they’re in for a ride that’s both fun and resounding, a notch up from what this type of fare might usually provide.


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