David Krumholtz Shines in Bob Byington’s Dry Comedy

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What would you do if faced with a fast-approaching death sentence? Start cooking meth? Jump into a volcano? Drink yourself silly? A new dry comedy from acclaimed filmmaker Bob Byington (Infinity Baby) explores said notion with hilariously cringe effect. Collaborating once again with beloved character actor David Krumholtz (Oppenheimer) after their work on Frances Ferguson (2019), Byington is an auteur who cannot be stopped. And don’t let the tight 80-minute duration (including end credits) of Lousy Carter fool you into thinking this is any sort of throwaway comedy effort.




In addition to Krumholtz sinking his teeth into a deadpan, thought-provoking role he was born to play, other fan-favorite performers like Martin Starr (Party Down) and Stephen Root (Barry) also grace the screen here. But it’s perhaps the women who reign superior here, thanks to standout turns by Olivia Thirlby (The Wackness) and newcomer Luxy Banner. The grim and non-commercial subject matter certainly won’t be for everyone — but for all the indie die-hards out there, enjoy!

Lousy Carter (2024)

4/5

Release Date
October 20, 2023

Director
Bob Byington

Runtime
80 Minutes

Writers
Bob Byington

Pros

  • Excellent performances across the board
  • Dry, grounded humor
  • There is also depth beneath the comedy
Cons

  • Contemplative mood and cringe comedy moments may be offputting to some viewers


Not So Great Gatsby


Those familiar with Byington’s work will gather quickly that he hasn’t exactly strayed from his signature brand here, and that’s a good thing. What better leading man than Krumholtz to not only continue in Byingtonian fashion but also to bolster it, creating the filmmaker’s crowning achievement? If you’ve seen the trailer or at least gandered at the logline here, it’s no surprise right now that the rather simple premise is centered around the dreaded news we all fear from the doctor one day. Mr. Carter, who goes by “Lousy” since it’s a nickname that simply “stuck” over the years, accepts the news with nothing more than a slight face contortion — and then we’re off, soon meeting the rest of the folks in his life.


It’s really not much, in terms of the ensemble — but at the end of the day (no pun intended), once we reach a certain age, the tally of folks in our day-to-day seems to narrow a bit, doesn’t it? Lousy tends to his feisty mother (Mona Lee Fultz) in a nursing home when he’s not teaching a grad-level course on the little-known novel, The Great Gatsby.

Wait, don’t you normally read and analyze F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic in high school? Yes, this is hilariously addressed in Lousy Carter, and you can only imagine the deadpan, eye-roll-type responses delivered by the ever-cynical Lousy when his students — including the droll but seductive Gail (newcomer Luxy Banner, a star in the making) — try and call him out on it. Byington employs a constantly panning camera to heighten the comedic effect in moments like these, and it’s a hoot to bask in.

Luxy Banner as Gail in Lousy Carter
Magnolia Pictures


Lousy also stays in touch with his ex Candela, played by Olivia Thirlby, who provides a funny little cinematic connection here, if folks remember the Academy Award-winning masterpiece Juno (2007). In Lousy Carter, the lovely Thirlby plays the ex of a teacher who ultimately has a somewhat inappropriate relationship with one of his students (no spoilers); in Juno, meanwhile, she plays a student who has a questionable rapport with at least one teacher at her high school. It’s a funny little twist on the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” game that all you movie buffs have played over the years.

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Martin Starr, Everybody

Martin Starr in Lousy Carter (2024)
Magnolia Pictures

As the sort of meandering, “ask me if I give a s***” type of shlub that Lousy presents himself to be, who better than to play his equally desert-dry partner-in-crime in this absurdist tale than reliable scene-stealer Martin Starr? Yes, he and Krumholtz have worked together, dating back to the infamous Freaks and Geeks days, and it shows. Here, Starr plays Kaminsky, another professor at the school where Lousy teaches. Things get tricky when Lousy takes a liking to Kaminsky’s beautiful wife, Olivia (Jocelyn DeBoer). Maybe Lousy is thinking, “Hey, I’m a ticking clock. Why not?”


Then there’s Coen brothers-regular Stephen Root, fresh off his Emmy-nominated supporting turn as boss Fuchs in HBO’s beloved dark comedy series Barry. In Lousy Carter, he plays the eponymous hero’s questionable therapist with a unique accent you might not be able to place — and perhaps that’s the point. Root’s screen time is limited, but it’s the sort of Milton Waddams effect if anyone remembers his iconic little character in Office Space. Neither of Root’s characters here dominate their respective films, but the performances are remembered long after the credits roll…

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Even in the face of fatal danger, Lousy still struggles through the everyday trials and tribulations: office politics, temptation, finances, anger suppression. Even if we’re not necessarily hurtling towards death as quickly as Lousy might be, his grounded persona in this otherwise somewhat bonkers tale reminds us of the power of cinema. Sure, you’ll laugh — but more importantly, you’ll feel differently by the end of the film’s tight duration.

Sure, that “feeling” might be a bit too much of a downer for a certain chunk of the moviegoing demographic, A.K.A. the lovers of all those pesky, upbeat rom-coms out there. Krumholtz has told MovieWeb how he’s a big fan of the MCU, but don’t expect these kinds of thrills in a movie like Lousy Carter. Enjoy instead the quieter, purposefully cringe moments that might make you contemplate your own place in real-life society.

From Magnolia Pictures, Lousy Carter is now playing in theaters and on digital.


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