Week two of the Best Month Ever and we’re looking at this little gem, a gem I’d never heard of until Jillian placed it on my radar (Thanks gurl!).
Anyway, you don’t need my usual preamble, take it as given that Melanine Lynskey is still the best human working in Hollywood today (probably), and any film she’s in is going to be okay (hopefully).
For Walter Himmelstein, a young man endearingly known as Putzel, life literally doesn’t go beyond his family’s fish store on the upper west side of Manhattan.
There are endless movies and TV shows that double as love letters to New York City. Most Woody Allen (boo hiss), Girls, Sex and the City… the list goes on and yet I can’t think of any less obvious examples.
Putzel is something along those lines but also an ode to lox and the best lox on the Upper East Side at that. Or, if we dig a little deeper, what a particular smoked fish-selling establishment represents to our central character, Walter Himmelstein, or “Putzel” (Jack Carpenter).
Is it a dream about to be realised, bringing with it financial security for the next 40 years – or an albatross around our hero’s shrimpy neck?
Well, Putzel is a total wet wipe, that’s no surprise. His marriage is fucked and that’s not the only thing being fucked, you know? His awful wife Willa (Allegra Cohen) is having it off with their thuggish neighbour, Hector (the mighty Adrian Martinez) and has no respect whatsoever for Putzel or his dreams.
Even when it seems the time has finally come for Putzel to get the keys to Himmelstein’s and take over the family business, she’s reluctant to return home and into his pathetic arms. Putzel hasn’t the heart to tell anyone about his imploding private life either so he goes on a fake holiday to a hotel down the road, which nobody really buys anyway.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the only things that fail to go to plan. Uncle Sid (John Pankow) announces that he and his wife Gilda (Susie Essman) are moving to Arizona and selling the business to the highest bidder, which SPOILER ALERT is not going to be young Putzel.
But before this can become a whole thing, Sid meets a much younger dancer called Sally (our Queen) and is quickly bowled over. And who can blame him, eh? He’s only human. Sid calls off the move, much to his wife’s secret joy and develops a sprightly new spring in his step. Putzel’s not thrilled however with this kink in his plan and is even more disappointed when he finds out who Sid is seeing…
When his plan to get Sally to go out with his friend and therefore not his uncle backfires, he and Sally start to bond. She seems to embrace his oddities while he’s again but a mere mortal and cannot resist the magic of Lady Lynskey.
He really needn’t worry about Sally’s feelings toward Sid anyway as she’s already tired of his shit after a couple of dates and unimpressed that he’s not separated from his wife, as he originally claimed. Go figure/men are the worst, etc.
As the pair hang out and Sid gets more and more out of control in the wake of Sally’s rejection, will Sally find the courage to be true to herself? And also honest about how she’s living/and where her life is going?
Will Putzel get what he wants despite the old adage you should be careful what you wish for – or will he take a risk too? And will he ever get beyond his own tiny neighbourhood, the one that’s kept him all but stuck to the spot for most of his adult life?
This is a nice film that strongly benefits from Melanie Lynskey’s scenes. I like the whole Jewish family melodrama element, and some of the supporting characters, such as Sid’s shop staff add a pleasant edge to proceedings. Particularly Tunch (Fred Berman), who’s probably a little too enamoured with his job.
But yes, I think this film is made by the scenes of Sally and Putzel connecting as they explore the city together (or around the bits Putzel doesn’t fear to tread). They have a sweet and lovable chemistry, and through Sally’s eyes Putz doesn’t look like such a loser anymore.
My favourite scene has got to be the fight scene between Putzel and the Salmon Guy (Fran Kranz) at the Under New Management party. It’s the straw that breaks the fish’s back for Putzel and a long time coming call to arms.
Maybe. Watch it yourself.
3.5/5. Sweet. And now I fancy bagels.
What did Jill make of the guy who puts the ‘putz’ in Putzel? Would she serve this baby with lox or leave it out for the birds? Find out here, as always.