Judge Brendan Babish tends to fall sideways.
Let love in.
Falling Up is the third full-length independent film from writer/director David M. Rosenthal. His previous efforts seem to include one earnest, dramatic documentary and one quirky comedy. With Falling Up, Rosenthal seems to have unwisely double-downed on the quirk, creating a romantic comedy that doesn't much succeed at being romantic, funny, or all that moving.
With a clichéd premise, this film seems destined to be mediocre and forgettable. Henry O'Shea (Joseph Cross, Milk) is a young nursing student who is forced to quit school when his father's sudden death puts the family into dire financial straits. To help them keep their house, he takes a job as a doorman in a posh Manhattan high-rise. Though explicitly warned by his boss, George (Joe Pantoliano, The Goonies), not to fraternize with the tenants, Henry openly flirts with the young, rich, and beautiful Scarlett (Sarah Roemer, Wristcutters: A Love Story), who lives with her snobby parents in the penthouse. Surprisingly, Scarlett returns Henry's affection, and their unlikely romance—after all, she's rich and he's poor—threatens them both.
A good way to think of Falling Up is that it's like the movie Titanic, minus the sinking boat, or Save the Last Dance, minus the dancing, or Dirty Dancing, also minus the dancing. You get the point. The rich-girl-falls-for-poor-boy story has been told countless times before, with returns diminishing to the point that without a new angle there's no point in telling it. There's certainly no new angle here. It's like hearing yet another cover of "Yesterday," or Saturday Night Live doing another Gilly sketch.
That said, the problems with Falling Up don't all originate from its conception. Almost every plot development seems contrived, either to advance to the story or add some artificial quirkiness. From the odd opening scene of an out-of-shape older man belligerently challenging a young man to a game of handball to the flaccid date between Henry and Scarlett (which is supposed to demonstrate how passionate these two are for each other), very few moments in this film ring true.
Lastly, there is the shallow moralizing of the movie. Sure, Scarlett is filthy rich, but Henry is good-looking, solidly middle class, well-educated, and white. Compared to the wide breadth of cultures, classes, and races in America, these two are not that different.
That said, Falling Up is not without its charms, particularly its likeable cast, from Cross as the charming lead to veteran character actors Pantoliano and Annette O'Toole. Even Snoop Doggy Dogg's inexplicable appearance as a fellow doorman livens up what otherwise dull scenes.
Ultimately, Falling Up is far from a fiasco, but lacks the humor, insight, or emotion to make it in any way memorable. This is what I've come to expect from most of the big-budgeted romantic comedies. If nothing else, this film is proof that you don't need a studio system to produce mediocrity.
The Anchor Bay DVD is a barebones version with the only extra being a short making-of featurette. The picture is slightly washed out and grainy, while the sound is limited to the front speakers. Despite being set in the picturesque and vibrant city of New York, this film offers no visual or aural pleasures.
Guilty. I would keep love out, if I were you.
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