The post Lousy Carter: Talking Yourself to Death, by Scott Nye appeared first on Battleship Pretension.

Writer/director Bob Byington has carved out an enviable, if regrettably low-profile, place in the film industry, regularly turning out expertly-tuned comedies with stellar casts that rarely get wide enough distribution to be seen by many. His latest film, Lousy Carter, is a familiar meditation on the purpose and absurdity of life through the lens of a few verbose narcissists, and no more the worse for wear.

Fresh off a prominent role in last year’s Oscar-winning Oppenheimer, David Krumholtz stars as Lousy Carter, a failed animator who’s nevertheless landed a plum if unrewarding position as a graduate professor of a single course, teaching The Great Gatsby to a small seminar. Lousy wasn’t born with that name, but earned it first through athletic mishaps in school, then later through repetition and his own general malaise.

Lousy it witty if not exactly bright, and inspired if not exactly wise. He’s estranged from his sister (Trieste Kelly Dunn), maintains a tenuous relationship with his mother (Mona Lee Fultz), an affable if contentious relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby), an unproductive relationship with his therapist (Stephen Root), and a close but bound-to-brawl relationship with a fellow professor (Martin Starr). Amidst these loose attachments, his doctor tells him he has six months to live, his mother dies, and an attractive young student (Luxy Banner) enters his class.

None of these people are particularly well-suited to help Lousy through his death sentence, which may account for why he doesn’t spread the word beyond his ex. Mostly he seems relieved. In his mid-40s and avoiding answering repeated invites to his 25th-year high school reunion, Lousy is faintly exhausted, with few avenues towards the unlikely event of a life change. Knowing he’ll die gives him license to act out even more than he usually does, and regret fewer choices along the way. Byington and Krumholtz portray this somewhere between gleefully and mournfully, the former’s trademark wordplay an avalanche of characters saying exactly what they feel, even if what they feel isn’t always representative of what they want.

Lousy, for example, feels pretty strongly that he wants to make an animated film based on Nabokov’s 1932 novel Laughter in the Dark, and proposes Gail, his young student, contribute her likeness to it. He’s already stated a desire to sleep with any student he can now that he no longer fears the consequences. Yet at each turn, he retreats from his desire even as he pursues it. He exists in a state many contemporary men are in, embarrassed of the raw yearning that the public eye has come to mock, yet unable to destroy it within themselves. He speaks in both cliches and attempts to differentiate himself from those cliches. The reality, of course, is that we’re all some form of cliche. Lousy is trying to escape one for another.

At under 80 minutes, Lousy Carter is, like Byington’s dialogue, brief enough to make its incision quickly and let you deal with the lasting effect. Byington isn’t here to heal minds or hearts, which still puts him at odds with the bulk of star-friendly independent comedy. It’s a relatively easy feat to get more laughs than that crowd – 10 minutes in, Byington already has them in a headlock – and through his denial of forced catharsis, the film lingers on, toying with its own extant possibilities and the inevitable loose threads we leave in our wake.

The post Lousy Carter: Talking Yourself to Death, by Scott Nye first appeared on Battleship Pretension.

The post Lousy Carter: Talking Yourself to Death, by Scott Nye appeared first on Battleship Pretension.

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