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Lazy Susan

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Apr 6, 2020
'Lazy Susan'
'Lazy Susan'  

Nick Peet's bouncy, winking comedy "Lazy Susan" never breaks character... and neither does Sean Hayes, who plays the title character, a deeply aimless sand unmotivated woman whose family and friends are at the point of absolute exasperation over her antics.

Susan drifts through her days doing as little as she possibly can. She happens to live in an apartment complex inhabited by a crew of misfits that are just as odd as she is, including musician Leon (Danny Johnson), a cheerful fellow who declares that he was "gifted with polio" as a child. (Susan, of course, being too lazy to walk, nicks his scooter whenever she has the chance in order to cruise around the neighborhood in restful ease.)

But is Susan really lazy? Or is her idea of accomplishment just different from most people? After all, she's a math whiz; then there's her charity work with children at the hospital burn unit. What's more, she can be as productive as anyone when it comes to art; she's forever occupied with making collage art, inventing creative (if haphazard) excuses for her chronic unemployment and inability to pay the rent, and never misses a rehearsal with best friend Corrine (Carrie Ailey), with whom she's set her sights on winning a talent show. (The big prize? A $200 gift certificate. We're not saving orphanages here.)

Susan's family isn't interested in hearing about her plans or aspirations, much less her roundabout fictions about her work life or lack thereof. They just wish she'd get a job. Mom (Margo Martindale) is profane and chipper and slightly begrudging when it comes to shelling out a few bucks here and there to her slothful daughter; brother Cameron (Kiel Kennedy), industrious even in childhood, has grown up to become a physician's assistant, though when it comes to Susan he's never grown up at all. Put the two of them together and it's a romper room of juvenile quarreling. (At least his daughter, Jenika - played adorably by Willa Skye - shows a rare mix of wit, heart, and maturity.)

Things come to a head when Cameron plans a family vacation to Niagara Falls that doesn't include his freeloading sister. Susan is crushed and angry... and then she hooks up with Phil (Jim Rash), a happy, horny, doting guy who inexplicably takes an interest in her.

Susan's smitten, and there's nothing inexplicable about that; gushing to Corrine, Susan exclaims, with no sense of self-awareness or irony, that it would be nice to have someone looking after her "for once." Will this great romance be the soaring liberation Susan seeks, or turn into a nosedive?

The film seems to amble, and yet that's an illusion because it's bursting with jokes — and terrific turns by the cast, which includes Alison Janney as Velvet, a high school frenemy who has risen in life to become the manager at the local K-Mart. Matthew Broderick also turns up for a cameo as the bemused manager of Suzan's apartment complex; it's yet another nebbishy role for Broderick, who's made a living at them for a while now. (You almost wish for a "Ferris Bueller" sequel in which we see how the coolest teen ever grew up to be an incompetent slob; Broderick would kill in a film like that.)

Hayes co-wrote the screenplay and you almost get a feeling that he took the lead role on a dare, as a lark, or as a cost-cutting measure that morphed into a fully committed performance. However it happened, this might be the biggest surprise of the year... and a cult hit in the making. "Lazy Susan" makes no apologies for being cleverly, self-consciously dumb, very funny, and also kind of sweet.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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