'Lazy Susan': Film Review

Lazy Susan Still 1 - Sean Hayes in Kmart Shirt - Shout! Studios Publicity -H 2020
Courtesy of Shout! Studios
Drag has never seemed so pointless.
4/3/2020

Sean Hayes plays the title role of a Midwestern woman slacker in Nick Peet's comedy, also featuring Margo Martindale, Allison Janney, Jim Rash and Matthew Broderick.

It's hard to imagine exactly what Sean Hayes was thinking with his new comedy about a middle-aged woman slacker. While the actor, who co-wrote the script, thankfully doesn't demean the titular character with his occasionally amusing portrayal, his casting still seems an utterly tone-deaf choice for this pic lacking the outrageous campiness of, say, the Tyler Perry Madea films. Despite its talented, overqualified cast, Lazy Susan simply feels like a mistake.

The opening scene, featuring a foot-to-head pan of Susan while she's slowly waking up and getting out of bed, sets the film's tone: The camera lingers over a close-up of her camel-toe. Cue the opening credits, accompanied by the breezy '60s film theme and pop hit "Georgy Girl," as she heads to her local Kmart in a scooter and whizzes around in a motorized shopping cart when she gets there.

It quickly becomes apparent that Susan's life is a mess. Unable to hold onto to a job, she's constantly hitting up her mother (Margo Martindale) for money. Susan's doctor brother (Kiel Kennedy) is disgusted with her. And she has a frenemy in the form of Velvet (a garishly made-up and coiffed Allison Janney), the Kmart's assistant manager with whom she's been competing since high school.

Things seems to pick up for Susan when she meets Phil (Jim Rash), the owner of "Jumpoline," an indoor trampoline amusement center. "Can I borrow your Spanx for tonight?" Susan asks her best friend Corrin (Carrie Aizley, who co-scripted with Hayes and Darlene Hunt) in preparation for the first date. But like everything else in Susan's life, the burgeoning romance goes awry, leading her to exact revenge in a typically over-the-top manner that briefly lands her in jail.

Most of the film's humor stems from the central character's self-centeredness and obnoxiousness, typified by such behavior as loudly talking on the phone during a church service and offering a little girl Crazy Glue to play with. The personality trait indicated by the pic's title is evidenced by such behavior as her sitting on a couch and eating french fries dipped in ketchup that's been poured into her navel. None of this is as funny as the writers intended it to be; nor is Susan's musical duet with Corrin on a flute-and-ukulele rendition of Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" in preparation for a local talent show.

By the time Susan has sex with a polio-afflicted neighbor (Danny Johnson) simply because he's been nice enough to fold her unattended laundry, it's hard not to question the point of this painfully unfunny exercise. Yes, she eventually displays some mildly redeeming qualities, but Hayes, who brings such unbridled comic energy to his wildly entertaining portrayal of Jack McFarland on Will & Grace, proves unable to make this female sad-sack drag creation remotely interesting or sympathetic, nor justify why the character was played by a man in the first place.

The ensemble, many of whom have extensive sketch comedy credentials, try their hardest but are similarly unable to overcome the hackneyed material. Martindale in particular is thoroughly wasted, while Matthew Broderick's participation amounts to little more than a walk-on appearance as Susan's landlord. Director Nick Peet, making his feature debut, never establishes a consistent tone, with the proceedings veering uneasily between broad comedy and attempted pathos.

The press notes make a point of declaring that "the character of Susan is a cisgender woman." That such a statement was deemed necessary provides some indication of just how misconceived this project seems.

Available on VOD April 3
Production companies: Stargazer Films USA, Hazy Mills Productions, Dominion Pictures
Distributor: Shout! Studios
Cast: Sean Hayes, Margo Martindale, Jim Rash, Kiel Kennedy, Danny Johnson, Allison Janney, J.R. Ramirez, Matty Cardarople, Skipp Sudduth, Carrie Aizley
Director: Nick Peet
Screenwriters: Carrie Aizley, Sean Hayes, Darlene Hunt
Producers: Todd Milliner, Carl Moellenberg, Shane O'Brien, Zach O'Brien
Executive producers: Wally Smith, Brandon Powers, Bobby Sain, Brian Resnick, Dominick LaRuffa Jr.
Director of photography: Ludovic Littee
Production designer: Rocio Gimenez
Editor: Benjamin Moses Smith
Composer: Scott Icenogle
Costume designer: Gunnar Deatherage
Casting: Anthony Del Negro

90 minutes