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Lousy Carter – Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review

Lousy Carter – Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review

Lousy Carter (David Krumholtz) is waiting for the doctor. When he finally turns up, he casually asks him, “I keep getting e-mails about my 25th high school reunion, do you think I should go?” The doctor replies, “Depends when it is.” That’s how he finds out he has six months to live.

But that’s not a cue for the movie to start getting mawkish. No, thanks to a throwaway comment from his ex-girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby), college literature professor Lousy realises that if he’s going to die anyway, he’s pretty much immune from ramifications, and decides to try to sleep with his pretty student Gail (Luxy Banner). At the same time, he’s been embarking on an affair with Olivia (Jocelyn DeBoer), the wife of his friend, Kaminsky (Martin Starr). It’s not for nothing that people call him Lousy!

You might think, why should I watch a film about such an awful man? Why do I care what happens to him? Well, the answer in two words is David Krumholtz. Although Lousy does almost nothing kind or admirable throughout the movie’s whole runtime, Krumholtz’s strange, sad sack warmth lends him an unwarranted charm. It helps that no-one in the film cuts Lousy any slack whatsoever, and so however undeserved it might be, that ends up earning him a little sympathy. And his basic situation – high school prodigy winds up living an unremarkable life – is surely one that many can relate too. But over everything else, it’s Krumholtz’s rumpled, schlubby charisma that makes Lousy disconcertingly endearing.

While he’s out front giving this dreadful man an all-too human face, writer-director Rob Byington is giving him and the people who populate his sad little life words to say, and establishing Lousy Carter’s very particular tone. We might worry when Lousy announces his intention to sleep with a student, but this tone quickly tells us there’s no need to – the fact that Gail finds him so unimpressive (“I keep expecting you to sound worldly and professional, but instead you sound like someone between the ages of fourteen and sixteen”) renders his quest more amusingly quixotic than uncomfortable. And there’s an interesting sort of pathos to his relationship with Kaminsky, who does not hold back in his criticism of Lousy (“The reason everyone is frustrated with you is that you’ve diminished over the years.”), and yet still seems to be rooting for him. Martin Starr’s ability to let just a whisper of feeling in between the cracks of that deadpan disdain shows why it’s always heartening to see him on the cast list.

There’s not much of a plot here, with the story playing out more as a series of acidic vignettes, but it still seems clear where it’s all going…  until the film pulls the rug out from us, executing a last-minute twist that works as well as it does precisely because Byington has established his tone so very well.

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Lousy Carter is ultimately a trifle, with no grand aspirations, yet taken on those terms, it’s tart and delightful.


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