Putzel (2013)
Putzel (2013)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: April 5th, 2013 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Jason Chaet Actors: Jack Carpenter, Melanie Lynskey, John Pankow, Susie Essman, Armando Riesco, Allegra Cohen, Steve Park, Ashley Austin Morris, Elizabeth Masucci




n the upper west side of Manhattan, Himmelstein’s House of Lox has cornered the market in fresh salmon on a bagel. 30-something Walter “Putzel” Himmelstein (Jack Carpenter) waits impatiently for current owner Sid (John Pankow) to finally retire to Wickenburg, Arizona, and give him the keys to the fish emporium. After all, it’s his 40-year plan – he’s dreamed of nothing more than to run the deli, essentially for the rest of his life. This simple goal becomes much more complicated when Sid first contemplates an offer from an outsider to buy the store, and secondly when aspiring dancer Sally (Melanie Lynskey), currently under employ at the nearby Abbey Pub, walks into the shop, awakening in Sid a feeling of compelling allurement. He’s been married to Gilda (Susie Essman) for decades, and tires of their bland relationship. With Sally (a woman who knows the subtle differences between nova and lox), he’s suddenly like a young boy again: bright, cheery, brimming with confidence, and naively hopeful.

Although an affair with Sally would keep Sid in New York, a divorce from Gilda would result in Putzel being unable to inherit Himmelstein’s (the shop would go to the highest bidder). So Putzel’s new mission is to roadblock the bathetic matinee. But even this task becomes too complex, especially when he begins to fall for Sally himself. Meanwhile, he must engage in flimsy attempts to demonstrate his dependability to Sid for the sake of acceding to House of Lox heritor, contend with a delivery guy named Tunch (Fred Berman) who aberrantly obsesses over the cold salmon in the display case, and entertain insecure doctor Jake Murphy (Armando Riesco) who is utilized in Putzel’s plot to impede the affair. After all of that, he’s also bothered by an indifferent advertiser hired to stand outside in a salmon costume (who instead shows up as a trout).

Putzel doesn’t have the ambition or aspirations to match Sally’s image of an ideal man. He’s neurotic, nervous, and battling self esteem issues, primarily sparked by his wife Willa (Allegra Cohen) demanding a divorce while living with her new boyfriend Hector (Adrian Martinez) – a man he’s forced to frequently interact with. The theme of manliness is examined while using dry humor and a touch of depressing idiosyncrasies that keep Putzel and Sally self-destructively disconsolate, as if they’re paralyzed by the thought of romantic satisfaction. Putzel’s problems make sense due to his irrational sensibilities (instead of going on a real vacation, he holes up in a hotel for a week and spray tans his face to be convincing), but Sally’s abnormalities are far less explained. Her history is somewhat of a charade, although she too combats financial embarrassments and the inability to determine self-worth.

“Putzel” aspires to blend the uniqueness of a Woody Allen romance with quirky characters reminiscent of a toned down “Napoleon Dynamite” or the more extreme (and less successful) “Eagle vs. Shark.” It’s not entirely fruitless, but moves too slowly in establishing purpose while arriving too late at an expected cessation of love triangle conflictions. Its tone, however, is fortunately consistent, never making the mistake of deviating into discordantly dismal territory, with discomforting sexual awkwardness peppering the quirky screenplay as the most somber substance. “Putzel” sports an unconventional setting for a formulaic extramarital carousing, but it wraps up assuredly and winningly.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10