Hardly Working Screen 4 articles

Hardly Working

1980

Hardly Working Poster
  • Lewis’ meditation on clowns in Hardly Working is in many respects a failure. And yet the film is an absolutely indispensable moment in Jerry Lewis’ work with the cinema. Repeated viewings of this film show it to be a remarkably complex playing-out of a frightened clown’s game of cinema.

  • Down to Jerry’s disappearance into the landscape in an undistinguished last shot, this would have been a perfect final film.

  • The story of a comic who can’t help blowing sky high in the family spotlight—and whose desires shiver with taboos—seems wrenched from a dark place in Lewis’s soul. The movie’s desperately amiable tone plays like a chastised boy’s terrified plea for love; the oblivious cruelty that emerges nonetheless (as in Lewis’s embarrassing parody of a Japanese chef) makes it all the sadder.

  • This is Jerry’s first (seen) attempt to wed issues of Jewish /outsider identity, Americana, and the desire for artistic or political legacy. Opening with a montage (of other movies): Jerry toots his horn in a greatest moments' super edit. Bracketing the sequences is the typewriting scene in Who’s Minding the Store?. Though it is not a film Jerry directed, it is the only clip shown piecemeal that conspicuously shows craft. The poetry of his comedy, seemingly effortless, credited to hard work.