Review: ‘Standing Up, Falling Down’ a Bona Fide Winner

It seems strange that Ben Schwartz (of Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from Parks & Recreation fame) had two films that opened on back-to-back weekends and they couldn’t be more different. The first, the much maligned Sonic the Hedgehog opened HUGE and took home the box office crown the past two weekends. The other, Standing Up, Falling Down, opened to much less fanfare but is the far more interesting of the two.

The film gives us the story of Scott Rollins (Schwartz), a down on his luck comedian living in LA who gives up on his dream of making it big the comedy world and comes home to Long Island to reset his life. Of course, like many who set off in the way of Horatio Alger and head west, Scott hangs his head in shame as the prodigal son returns home broken. He’s greeted half-heartedly by his father (Kevin Dunn) and enthusiastically by his mother (Debra Monk) who is happy to have him home. Scott settles into his childhood room that appears no different than when he lived there as a child. Of course, the girl he left behind brokenhearted, Becky (Eloise Mumford), has since married and looms large in the whole scenario. Adrift and unsure of what to do with himself, he meets up with his friend Murph (Leonard Ouzts) at a bar and sees what his life would have been like if he played it like most do – wife, kids, house and all that comes with it. While in the bathroom, he runs into Marty (Billy Crystal), an alcoholic dermatologist who pisses in the sink then tells Scott he’s got a skin issue and he should come by his office to have it checked out.

After meeting up again at a wake, the two form a quick bond and open up to one another about the various things they’ve screwed up in their lives. Marty acts as a guide of sorts, helping Scott navigate the shit situation he’s steered himself into. Likewise, connecting with Scott helps Marty work through his own shit although it happens a little more circuitously.

What unfolds is not all that surprising, but it is a ride worth taking. I found myself incredibly invested in both characters. I know that if I had made a few different decisions in my life, I could easily have been Scott, aimlessly wandering hoping to latch onto that one thing that will make me whole. I’m sure we’ve all had those thoughts.

What really drives this film is the performances of both Schwartz and Crystal. Both have larger than life personalities that can be overwhelming (in a good way, of course). While I lament that there was no running over by a Lexus, Schwartz especially surprised me with his standout performance – subdued but charming and funny with spot on timing and delivery. I hope to see much more of this type of role for Schwartz. Crystal is a legend and he didn’t disappoint. Always able to balance humor and drama, he gives a performance that stands up with his best. Both actors were so relatable and they played perfectly off of one another that kudos are necessary to whomever cast them together.

This is a very satisfying film experience and well crafted by director Matt Ratner with a solid script written by Peter Hoare. Grace Gummer, Caitlin McGee, Nate Corddry and David Castañeda round out the great cast.

I would highly suggest catching this one if you can. It is still in theaters and available through various streaming sources.

Review: ‘Big Fish & Begonia’ is a luscious Chinese fairy tale.

BIG FISH & BEGONIA

From ancient Chinese legends comes a beautiful tale of love and sacrifice. There is a mystical race of beings that control the tide and the changing of the seasons. But one of these beings, a young girl named Chun, wants to experience the human world, not simply observe it. When she turns sixteen, Chun is allowed to transform into a dolphin and explore the human world. However, she soon learns this world is a dangerous place. Chun is nearly killed in a vortex, but saved by a human boy at the cost of his own life. Moved by his kindness and courage, she decides to give the boy life again, but this power comes at a price. Chun will have to face adventure and sacrifice in order to protect the boy’s soul until it is ready to return to the human world.

Big Fish & Begonia is part love story, part fable, and all elegant Chinese animation. This visually luscious film follows in the steps of Studio Ghibli delights in both wonder and overall feel of the storytelling. While you do feel the entire 105 minute run of the film that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story has enough going on to engage an age-appropriate audience. With a PG-13 rating, some themes will go over the heads of younger viewers. It is the perfect film to enjoy, just sitting back, listening, and watching the vivid colors and curious characters that pop up along the way. It has a bit of a Hans Christain Anderson’s Little Mermaid feel but most definitely has more going on. And without a doubt, it deserves to be viewed on the largest screen possible. Big Fish & Begonia opens today. Check out the trailer below for a taste of the film.

Shout! Studios will release the film in New York and major cities across the country starting April 6th with a national rollout to follow on April 11th.

 

Big Fish & Begonia made its international debut at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival. Already a great box-office success overseas, the film is China’s foremost animated feature film