Florida Film Fest review: PUTZEL
“Listen to the guilt. It’s like a GPS for the soul.” For Walter, those words ring true, but what else would you expect for a guy whose nickname is Putzel, or essentially “little putz” or “schmuck” in Yiddish? They are his guiding light in life, his blueprint for lowering his expectations, allowing his wife to cheat on him and resigning himself to a life as the manager of his family’s lox deli. Never mind that he has bigger dreams, such as summoning the courage to schlep himself far away from Manhattan’s Upper West Side and escape his domineering schmendrik (look that one up, my fellow goys) of an uncle.
Directed by first-timer Jason Chaet and written by Rick Moore, Putzel plays like a charming sitcom, one you can’t quite hate but can’t fully appreciate either. Its premise is promising, and Walter, played lovingly by Jack Carpenter, is not as annoying and uninteresting as his moniker would suggest. In addition, John Pankow and Melanie Lynskey, as Walter’s uncle and new love interest, add some honesty to the piece. But despite those characters’ moments of tenderness and one of the funniest sight gags you’ll see at this year’s festival, Chaet’s film is just too contrived to be anything more than a comedic diversion for viewers seeking mainstream entertainment.
Like its title character, Putzel perhaps deserves a bit more respect than it’s received here. However, it’s difficult to embrace a film that is a bit of a putz itself: sweet and well-meaning, but ultimately underachieving and easy to overlook.