The reign of Melanie Lynskey continues as we come full circle back to NYC after leaving it behind in last week’s film. Once again, we’re in for a comedy/drama about family because that’s how ML rolls—though this week we get considerably more lox and unexpected guitar serenades.
Where to Watch:
The Uncondensed Version:
Welcome to Himmelstein’s House of Lox, a family business in the Upper West Side passed down from father to son…to nephew? Walter, whom everyone in the neighborhood affectionately(?) calls Putzel, fully expects his uncle Sid to pass the business on to him any day now. He’s built his 40 year plan around owning and operating the store for 40 years and determines to carry on his grandfather’s legacy…which is especially convenient considering Walter fears leaving the boundaries of the UWS.
Everything seems to be lining up nicely with Sid and his wife Gilda retiring to Arizona…until our girl ML cruises into the fish store, dishing out impressive knowledge about lox and charming everyone in general with her Melanie Lynskey-ness. She even scores free fish from Sid, almost unheard of from Walter’s grumpy uncle.
Suddenly everything is falling apart. Not only does Sid plan to sell the store when he receives an outside offer, but Walter’s marriage also seems to be completely off the rails. After sleeping with Hector, a neighborhood tough guy(/it was never entirely clear to me what he does), Willa seems determined to end the marriage–just as determined as Walter is to fix it. Walter now has much scheming to do to keep his marriage problems a secret, stop Sid and ML (Sally) from getting closer, and guarantee the store’s succession.
Predictably, none of Walter’s plans work out the way he expects. Even though Sid seems inclined to give Walter the store, he’s also more inclined to leave Gilda. Complicating matters further, Walter is finding himself attracted to Sally because ML is a beautiful goddess. When their relationship gets serious, Sally tries to distance herself from Walter as she’s always on the road as a dancer.
It seems ML has swept out of the neighborhood as quickly as she swept in, but not before both Gilda and Sid figure out what’s been going on.
After a heart-to-heart with Sid about broken dreams and a few fish being thrown in Walter’s general direction, Walter seems to be getting everything he’s ever wanted. …Right?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
My review has left out a lot of the awkward humor, genuinely funny dialogue, and sweetness of the Himmelstein family dysfunction. Walter’s struggle to stay close to his family while no longer allowing their expectations to hold him back feels so relateable, and though the characters are exaggerated, they seem real. I loved some of Walter’s self-deprecating lines, such as “I don’t want to know myself better, I want to know myself less” at the suggestion of seeing a therapist.
This became a 4 PPH film for me because of a few scenes–a sex scene involving shouts of “Poseidon,” a fight between Walter and a man dressed as a trout, and the scenes Walter shares with his aunt and uncle towards the end of the film. ML is great in this, of course, and pulls off a compelling but vulnerable character. The humor is done more convincingly than the moments of emotional depth, and (spoiler) the ending wraps things up a bit too neatly, but it’s still a fun watch that is well-written and features some memorable characters.
Biggest complaint is the missed opportunity for a pretzel shop in consideration of the nickname Putzel. Perhaps in the sequel?