“Standing Up, Falling Down” is a comfort food comedy. It finds laughs in all the expected and familiar places, sentiment in a few more, and reminds us how offhandedly hilarious Billy Crystal was and remains.
There’s banter and wit and stand-up comedy and karaoke and bad choices and sage advice to this “coming home defeated” tale. And if you want to know what a comedy that really “sticks the landing” looks and plays like, here you go.
Ben Schwartz of TV’s “Parks & Recreation” stars as Scott, a Long Island comic failing in LA. He’s doing “bits,” and bombing in a tiny cafe where no one even notices him.
“Ford Fiesta — Why do they even CALL it that? I feel like it’s never really a ‘fiesta’ inside. Right? It’s just a car!”
Do they have crickets in LA?
Scott goes home to Eastern Long Island — NOT “The Hamptons” part — back to his adoring mom (Debra Monk) and dismayed and disappointed dad (Kevin Dunn).
What’s Dad got to be dismayed about? His son’s 34, with no direction and no job. And his daughter (Grace Gummer) is also still living at home — at 30.
The sibling banter is biting, and loving.
“The comedy world’s SLOWEST rising star comes back home!”
She, on the other hand, is managing a pretzel shop in the mall. And “I’m dating a COP!”
“You? I don’t believe it.”
“OK, he’s a security guard.”
Scott laments his lot to one of the few friends he still has in town, pines for the girl “I ran away from — literally,” and rolls his eyes at his mother’s many “Post Office application” hints.
And then he meets the lush. Marty (Crystal) is the resident character at the Whale’s Tail, a local bar. He loves “Jäger Bombs” (boilermakers) and karaoke. Scott and Marty collide in the toilet, where the lush notices the younger guy’s skin rash. “I know a guy…”
When Scott shows up at the dermatologist’s office, Marty — who has no real memory of meeting him — turns out to be “the guy.”
“Stress hives,” Dr. Marty diagnoses. “Or, you could be dying of 30 or 40 other diseases.”
“Are you even a real DOCTOR?”
I put a lot of stock in witty banter in a comedy, and “Standing Up, Falling Down” has plenty of that. We can credit screenwriter Peter Hoare (TV’s “Kevin Can Wait”). But you can’t help but notice there are a couple of stand-ups — one of them a living legend — at the ready as joke-doctors on the set.
The doc has a Twitter joke account — “I’m a good ‘follow.'”
He has lots of great advice — “Regret is the only thing that’s real. It’s why the good lord gave us weed and booze — numbing agents.”
And of course he has loads of issues.
The comic has this whole thing to work out with “the girl I left behind” (Eloise Mumford), and this “voice” thing that stand-ups have to find in order to be funny.
How white is he?
“Wanna hear WHITE? I once bought a Bon IVER album in a Whole Foods!”
And that’s how “Standing Up, Falling Down” plays out — jokes, sparkling bits of dialogue, a few touching third act twists and laughs in surprising places.
Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter, has never been funnier on screen. And David Castañeda as the “security guard” boyfriend is a hoot.
It doesn’t re-invent the “stand-up (screen) comedy,” doesn’t cover much new in the “You can’t go home again” genre. But there are laughs, grins and at least one Billy Crystal bit worthy of a spit-take.
And as I said at the outset, the last couple of couple of scenes are scripted and played so skillfully, warmly and amusingly that this one doesn’t exit quietly. It really sticks the landing.
MPAA Rating: unrated, alcohol and marijuana abuse, profanity
Cast: Ben Schwartz, Billy Crystal, Grace Gummer, Eloise Mumford and Kevin Dunn
Credits: Directed by Matt Ratner, script by Peter Hoare. A Shout! Factory release.
Running time: 1:31