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Lousy Carter (A Movie Review)


Starring David Krumholtz, Martin Starr, Olivia Thirlby, Jocelyn DeBoer, Stephen Root, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Macon Blair, Luxy Banner, Andrew Bujalski, Mona Lee Fultz, Randy E. Aguebor, Lee Eddy, Shelby Surdam and Agustus Benchmark the cat.

Screenplay by Bob Byington.

Directed by Bob Byington.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 80 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2023 Philadelphia Film Festival.

The official tag-line description of the movie Lousy Carter is simply this: “Man-baby Lousy Carter struggles to complete his animated Nabokov adaptation, teaches a graduate seminar on The Great Gatsby, and sleeps with his best friend's wife. He has six months to live.”

It’s not exactly a strong promotional text, and frankly it’s probably not going to draw many people in, and yet it somehow does capture the film’s cynical, self-aware essence – despite the extremely patronizing term “man-baby.” (Yes, Carter is an arrested development case, but even the script acknowledges that he’s more like a moody teenager in a middle-aged body.)

Lousy Carter tells the story of an aging, divorced college literature professor, who is mostly estranged from his family, barely holding on to his job (the book he specializes in has been somewhat canceled in modern society), is just a bit too lecherous around his female students, and has only one friend (and frankly, they don’t seem to like each other all that much).

Once upon a time he produced an acclaimed animated film, and he has been trying, half-heartedly, to come up with a follow-up ever since. He has settled upon the idea of adapting a somewhat obscure novel by Vladimir Nabokov, although he never really got around to reading the letter from the author’s estate that the licensing fee for the book would be way beyond his miniscule budget.

Then, his doctor tells him that he is dying.

Life is kind of tough on Lousy Carter. Of course, he never really had a chance when his mother named him Lousy.

And, frankly, he is more than happy to wallow in his own self-pity. The film basically just watches Carter as he navigates all of the indignities which life piles upon him.

Playing the lead role is TV actor David Krumholtz (Numb3rs), who seems to relish the opportunity to play such a large, complicated role. In fact, much of the cast does come from the TV world, including Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks) as his frenemy, Stephen Root (News Radio) as his psychiatrist and Olivia Thirlby (Goliath) as Lousy’s ex-wife.

They say that there is really a very small difference between tragedy and comedy, and that is particularly true in Lousy’s life. The movie is often surprisingly funny, in a very dark, complicated way.

However, the climax, while certainly a surprise, probably takes things too far.

By the way, Lousy Carter actually is one of the few non-Marvel films that has a post-credits tag scene, so you may want to stick it out to the end.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: October 25, 2023.


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