Tuesday, September 11, 2012

David Wexler's THE STAND UP proves a pleasant wish-fulfillment rom-com about love, loss and growing up

The first thing you'll probably question during David Wexler's new rom-com-dram about love and loss is, "How the hell did a guy like this get a girl like that?" To the film's great credit, by the finale -- when our hero has moved from one beauty to the next, growing up a bit in the process -- you'll accept it as pretty much par for his course. After all, it is just a movie. And not a bad one, either, once you agree to play by its rather odd rules.

THE STAND UP has a dual meaning, as it turns out. The lead character, Zoe, sports a strange name (for a fellow, at least) that proves a good indication of things to come. Played as a pudgy and none too glamorous performer by actor Jonathan Sollis (above), he's a stand-up comic to whom life tosses a metaphorical grenade; how he recovers from the explosion and finds the will to stand up again is the arc of the plot.

Filmmaker Wexler (shown at left) wants us to take as a given that Zoe's a fairly successful comic. From the on-stage bits we barely see and hear, you'll have to take this on faith. Ditto the relationship between Zoe and his gorgeous girlfriend, Miranda (played by Julia Dennis, below). What's this about? How did they meet and fall in love? What drew her to him? Don't bother asking: It's a fait accompli. Maybe it's just because the guy is so f-ing taletned. Look at Billy Joel (among others) and his parade of paramours.

In any case, tragedy strikes, and Zoe loses Miranda. How? Why? Don't ask, because neither I, nor the film, will tell you. So we must stop mourning and move on. Now the film begins to get interesting. Zoe has moved back in with his dad (a fine Aidan Quinn, below) who eventually wants him out of the house and on his own again, but to that end, Zoe needs a job. Dad conveniently runs what is referred to as public school in the city, but it seems in such good shape and with such small classes that the filmmaker must be using the term as the Brits use it for their public schools.

Sooner than you can say convenience and coincidence, our guy is teaching kindergarten to an adorable class (below) and of course doing a pretty good job of it. It's interesting that here, in the  classroom, Mr. Wexler let's us see Zoe's penchant for humor and smarts better than in the club. (How he works "the body of Christ" into his chatter to the kids is classic.)

Our hero also meets another young and quite attractive teacher (played by Margarita Levieva, below) who comes complete with her own conveniently sad love story. Now, if it sounds as though I am dissing this little movie, I'm not. While it is manufactured and full of too-easy stuff, it's also quite enjoyable to sit through -- thanks to the performances of the entire cast, and to the quick-wittedness of the filmmaker as writer and director.

Mr. Sollis is quite winning and so is Ms Levieva, and Quinn is his usual good self. The pacing is swift, and the film is full of spontaneity and charm, never more so than in the scene in which Zoe catches his dad in a compromising position. The Stand Up should make a fine date movie for folk who want a good time but don't want to sit too long (it's only 83 minutes, including credits).

The movie, from Cinetic Media, opens this Friday, September 14, in New York City at the Quad Cinema, and perhaps elsewhere, eventually. (If not, it will certainly be available in time on DVD and/or digitally.)

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