It’s been four years since Scott (Ben Schwartz) left home in Long Island to pursue his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. Now, after striking out in Los Angeles, the out-of-work 34-year-old drives cross-country to move back in with his parents. It’s hardly how he envisioned his life when he took off for the west coast.
Back home we meet Scott’s not-so-supportive father (Kevin Dunn), his “he’s still my baby” mother (Debra Monk), and his equally unsuccessful sister Megan (Grace Gummer – one of the film’s biggest assets). She too lives at home and works at a pretzel shop in the local mall. Megan is also Scott’s biggest critic and frequent verbal sparring partner. None of his family expected him to make it as a comic and judging by the few slices we get of his routine it’s easy to see why.
Scott tries reconnecting around town but comes face-to-face with a bruising reality. His friends have grown up and are living adult lives – you know, married with jobs and kids. That includes Becky (Eloise Mumford), his ex-girlfriend and the proverbial one that got away. She’s now married to the successful and all-around nice guy Owen (John Behlmann). But as all of Scott’s regrets come to the surface, he meets dermatologist and hard-drinking sad sack Marty (Billy Crystal), someone actually going through a rougher patch than he is.
First-time feature film director Matt Ratner along with screenwriter Peter Hoare make Scott and Marty’s friendship their centerpiece, cultivating it through a series of chance meetings – in the bathroom at a bar, a doctor’s office, or at a funeral. A strange camaraderie blooms between the two kindred spirits who find catharsis in collectively wallowing in their own self-pities while drowning their woes in booze, pot, and loads of jokey conversations. It’s all a diversion – a way for them to keep from taking responsibility and finally growing up.
Crystal makes for a charming drunk but it’s his quieter moments that resonate the most. It’s then that we not only see Marty’s poorly-veiled sadness, but understand why he would want to be a father figure and the kick-in-the-butt Scott needs. Crystal is such a natural when it comes to snappy sarcasm and self-deprecating humor that it’s easy to forget about his dramatic chops. Schwartz, who is currently enjoying box office success voicing “Sonic the Hedgehog”, holds his own with Crystal. But isn’t it ironic that the dermatologist turns out to be funnier than the stand-up comic?
“Standing Up” is an often whimsical look at second chances and new beginnings. On the flipside it’s about remorse, loss, and self-destruction. Altogether it’s really nothing we haven’t seen before. It just happens to be sparked by some good lead chemistry and a solid group of supporting characters. And it’s nice to see Billy Crystal back on screen hitting many of the same notes that made him a household name.