Hardly Working

After a decade’s absence, Jerry Lewis made his comeback in 1981 with this movie, which represents a throwback in some respects to the conditions of his first film as a director, The Bellboy: a low budget, discontinuous gags, and Florida locations (in this case suburban). But two decades separate that film from this one, and what Lewis comes up with here is both looser and more tragicnot merely in depicting the vain efforts of an out-of-work circus clown to hold down a steady blue-collar job, but in showing the effects of aging and lessened stamina in its star (reflected also in the tired, memorable features of Lewis’s straight man, Harold J. Stone, who plays his boss at the post office and the father of his girlfriend). The candor of this movie as self-portrait is at times almost terrifying; while some of the gags are genuinely funny, the depiction of an older Lewis trying to adjust to everyday American life also becomes a searing depiction of the fate of misfits in the Reagan era. Lewis has described this as his worst movie, but it also may be his most revealing one. With Susan Oliver and Steve Franken. (JR)

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