Lazy Susan is about, no bullshit, a lazy woman named Susan who never got her life together.
When a performer finds a vanity project built around showcasing their talents, it’s expected that the audience will forgive certain weaknesses in the overall film so long as the performance at its center makes up for it. In Lazy Susan, a “comedy” designed by star and co-writer Sean Hayes, the highlighted acting leaves just as much to desire as the rest of the movie.
Lazy Susan is about, no bullshit, a lazy woman named Susan who never got her life together. When we meet her, she’s struggling to pay the bills, has a non-existent love life and is dealing with her overachieving older brother convincing her mother to cut her off financially. Her only friend Corrin (co-writer Carrie Aizley) is the only person who seems to understand her. The two have a flute and ukulele band together whose rehearsals are often interrupted by Corrin’s useless husband who can never figure out how to feed their kids without her help.
This is either the set-up for a sitcom that won’t make it to a second season or an indie dramedy that isn’t real enough to work as a drama and not funny enough to be a comedy. Oh, and Susan is played by Sean Hayes. The “Will & Grace” star helped write this movie and thought the female lead role should be his.
Hayes doesn’t play Susan for camp, though. This isn’t a drag scenario. It’s not a cis male actor playing a transwoman. It’s just Sean Hayes playing a woman because it’s “acting” and he thought it was a fascinating role to play. But Susan is barely even a character. She’s a collection of negative character traits with zero redeeming qualities, someone so inert and stubborn that she fails to scan as remotely realistic.
This is one of those indie film exercises where the filmmakers felt that making someone as unlikable and difficult to relate to would mean the finished product would feel more authentic than the usual arcs people move through in conventional film. But the problem is without that kind of arc, the audience is being asked to watch an insufferably selfish person be irritating for an hour and a half with little to no dramatic progression or catharsis.
What’s worse is that everyone involved still thinks this is kind of a comedy, even though nothing here is remotely humorous. If this was a Will Ferrell character, where their obvious foibles were masked by how ridiculous and absurd the scenarios are, it could maybe be entertaining. But Hayes plays Susan completely straight. In the third act, there’s a mild attempt to hint at more serious family dysfunction as the root cause for her issues, but it’s never explored or unpacked and the finish is too tidy to feel like anything other than exhausted screenwriters tying up a bad draft.
Jim Rash is maybe the only cast member trying at all, as Susan’s ill-fated lover/jamboree owner. It’s such a painful movie to watch with his presence knowing a slightly better written version of this same story would work better with Rash in the role, if we were for some reason insisting on having a misanthropic woman be played by a man from an NBC sitcom. Alas, Hayes is just not dynamic enough to pull this off, whatever the hell he even intended “this” to be in the first place.