Lousy Carter REVIEW – Far From Lousy

Lousy Carter charts the nothingness of middle age adult life.

Lousy Carter
Lousy Carter

I’ve watched David Krumholtz for years on TV show Numb3ers, and most recently, he was in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. He’s a great character actor, and is the main reason why Lousy Carter is so good.

Krumholtz plays Carter, a Literature professor who’s just discovered that he has 6 months to live. What should he do now that he has such limited time? His ex-girlfriend suggests that maybe he try having an affair with one of his students, become one of those professor-in-a-mid-life-crisis cliches. Carter tries putting the moves on student Gail (Luxy Banner), and the result is a cringey, hilarious mess. He’s also not a very good teacher, and is the laughing stock of the faculty for only teaching one novel for a graduate class. He used to be a big deal when his animated film came out, but he’s just coasted in life since then.

The most striking thing is how unchanged his life is by this prognosis. It’s still very mundane as he drifts through a job he doesn’t really care about, have conversations with people who are also just tired with their own lives. This is the reality of adulthood, where even the terminally ill have to wait to be told that they are dying. His mom, who lives in a care home, contemplates how her life really doesn’t have much purpose nor joy, yet she doesn’t want to die.

The humour in this movie is absolutely dry, and will have you uncomfortably laughing at times, especially when the subject matter hits a bit too close to home. It’s a testament to Bob Byington’s writing that the film is able to maintain its tone, yet provide genuine insights into aspects like love and death.

Carter’s life just isn’t good. His best friend Kaminsky (Martin Starr) doesn’t really like him, often criticizing him for his professional and moral failings. His ex girlfriend Candela (Olivia Thirlby) barely has any reaction to the news, her main concern being the money he owes her and how she needs to get it back from him now before he croaks. His relationship with his mother isn’t good – he barely visits her due to the casual abuse he experienced at her hands – and no longer has much of a relationship with his sister (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Even his therapist (Stephen Root) can’t stand him, and their sessions together lead into a constant loop of nothingness.

At one point in the film, when asked about what death is, one of the characters comments that it is like a bubble being popped – death is nothingness. Yet, even when faced with nothingness, Carter does the opposite of what you would expect from protagonists who find themselves with a terminally ill condition. He tries to restart his animation project, but stalls so much we can see that he isn’t really driven to do anything with it. This is the plight of a middle-aged adult. We’re so rooted to the status quo of mundanity, that even the awareness of death does nothing to shake us out from it.

The one bright spark for Carter is really his relationship with Gail. It may have come from dubious intentions, but that connection sustained him more than he let on. Maybe it’s because she’s still young and untouched by the reality of life, a reminder of who he used to be once upon a time.

Ageing and time robs from us so much more than we know, so much so that when we reach the end, all that’s left to do is reminisce about was, and wait for the abyss to swallow us up.

Review screener provided.

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Lousy Carter
The cast delivers on the sardonic, dry wit of the screenplay. At the centre of it all is David Krumholtz's fantastic performance as the narcissistic, self-involved Carter.