Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Putzel, or: Poseidon, God of the Sea

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.

The Film:

Putzel

Where to Watch:

Hoopla

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.

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Walter was also waiting for the family’s telepathic abilities to kick in…

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.

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Lox be a lady tonight? (Done, I promise.)

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.

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I’ve always found a staring contest is the best way to establish your authority during a date.

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?

The Rating:

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?

 

Does my blog wife find this lox-worthy or would she toss it back in the ocean?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tallulah: A Case Study

Hooray for fuck-ups!  At least that’s our theme this month (and let’s be honest—every month.  Every DAY).  This week’s pick is brought to you by Allison Janney and Ellen Page, but mostly Allison Janney.

The Film:

Tallulah

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Ellen Page steals a baby!  Also Allison Janney is in this.

The Uncondensed Version:

Tallulah (Lu) and her boyfriend Nico have been on the road, living out of a van for the last couple of years.  Things begin to fall apart when Nico suggests they settle down a bit, maybe even marry and have children.  Lu, much more of a free spirit, freaks out a bit, leading to a big fight and Nico’s departure.  With nothing to go on beyond Nico’s brief mention of going home, Lu heads to NYC to find his mom.

Nico’s mom, Margo, is played by Allison Janney (who in fact makes this movie).  In the midst of a divorce, fearing she will be kicked out of university-sponsored housing, and alienated from her son, Margo is not in a good place and not particularly welcoming.

After Margo sends her away, Lu goes to a hotel to scavenge and is mistaken for housekeeping.  An unhappy trophy wife asks Lu to watch the baby, Madison, while she goes on a date.  This woman, Carolyn, doesn’t seem to know the first thing about babies, letting her daughter toddle around naked, claiming she is already potty trained and doesn’t need diapers.

Carolyn is a pretty insufferable character and is accustomed to paying people to do anything she can’t or doesn’t want to do herself, including applying her makeup and putting her shoes on her feet.  She has a bit of a breakdown about how incompetent she is as a mother, but it was really difficult to sympathize.  Possibly because I find it difficult to sympathize, period.

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Is it wrong that I’m also annoyed by how perfect her hair is?

By the time Carolyn returns home, she is drunk and passes out almost immediately.  When Madison reaches her arms out to Lu, she takes it as a sign and leaves the hotel with Madison.

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The thing that scares me about babies is you never know if they just like shiny things or if they actually intend to choke you.

With nowhere else to go, Lu returns to Margo’s apartment and claims Madison is Nico’s daughter.  Margo agrees to let them stay for a night, which of course becomes longer.

Margo, Lu, and Madison bond a bit though mostly Margo yells at Lu for her complete incompetence as a mother.  We learn a bit more about Margo’s divorce, including the tidbit that she has yet to sign the divorce papers.  After many years of marriage, Margo’s husband came out as gay and left her for a man (Zachary Quinto).  Margo refuses to sign the papers in part because she’s angry that her husband is considered brave after so many years of lying and ultimately breaking up their family.

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Why go to a paint ‘n wine class when you can get drunk and make bad paintings for free?

Lu, on the other hand, remains pretty mysterious.  The only thing she reveals is that she was named after a bar in the town where she grew up, and possibly hints that one or both of her parents were alcoholics.  When asked if she was raised by wolves, she responds “I wish.”

Meanwhile, Carolyn is frantic about her missing daughter, partially because her husband has no idea she is in NYC and will never forgive her for losing their daughter.

You know this isn’t going to end well.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I don’t know if I like this one or not.  Allison Janney is amazing in this (duh).  There are moments that are very successful, and I like that it’s very focused on exploring themes rather than plot.

On the other hand, the tone strikes me as very uneven.  It’s a drama, but it has some lighter moments and (almost) a comedy ending.  I also didn’t really buy Margo and Lu’s bond—by the end, it was meant to be very strong, but I didn’t think enough time was spent establishing that.

My mom watched quite a chunk of this with me, and she thought the subtitle should be “A Psychologist’s Case Notes” or something along those lines.  It did seem to be a very clinical study of the characters’ personalities and motivations.

Even though she’s the titular character, I think Lu’s motivations remain the most obscure.  It’s odd that she takes the baby so soon after having a discussion with Nico insisting she doesn’t want to settle down and have a conventional life.  But the movie is all about deception and self-deception, so perhaps these are things Lu does want to some degree.  All of the characters seem to lack clarity regarding what how they’d like the future to look and instead try to replay old scenarios with a happier ending.  Lu may want to create the happy childhood she presumably never had without having to really commit to being a parent or leaning on others for help.

I like the exploration here, but not necessarily the execution.

Would Christa take the money and run or take the baby and…stun (rhyming is hard)?  Find out here!

 

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Foxy Merkins, or: Are You a Women’s Studies Major?

Another week, another big gay film review!

My pick for this week is The Foxy Merkins as it’s Madeline Olnek’s latest (director of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, still one of my favorite films I’ve reviewed, and hands down winner of best title on this blog. Probably also best film title, period).

See what Christa thinks of The Foxy Merkins here!

The Film:

The Foxy Merkins

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Lesbian hooker Jo becomes a mentor to Margaret, who is practically the Kenneth of lesbian prostitutes. Way more 30 Rock references in that summary than I intended.

The Uncondensed Version:

The events of our film unfold in New York City as we follow Margaret, a down on her luck former women’s studies major. Since she can’t find any other work, Margaret has become a lesbian prostitute; however, she’s quite terrible at getting women to pick her up.

It doesn’t take long before Jo, a seasoned pro, takes Margaret under her wing. This is both a blessing and a curse as Margaret could use some help, but Jo is not the expert she believes herself to be. Jo comes from a wealthy family and lives in the bathroom of the Port Authority as an act of rebellion. She gives Margaret advice about going up to women and touching them (which, shockingly, doesn’t go over well) and tells her she is the kind of lesbian other women don’t want to be seen with. Jo is a bit of a frenemy, honestly.

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New meaning to the shirt dress.

Case in point: Margaret gets tickets to see the digitally remastered Lassie in theaters (seriously), and Jo gives her pointers on picking up a woman who’s giving her the eye. The end result is the woman crawling on the floor and eating Margaret’s popcorn. Literally. Not a euphemism, you guys.

Meanwhile, there is a bit of an ongoing subplot involving finding Margaret’s mom. When Margaret and Jo look for her in a graveyard, they encounter a man in a trench coat selling merkins (editor’s note: a merkin is a wig for, uh, down there. Maybe you already knew that, but I didn’t. Or if I did I repressed it LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO). So anyway…it’s all coming together, and our title makes sense now.

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THIS SCENE, GUYS. PLEASE AT LEAST WATCH THIS SCENE.

Margaret and Jo go back to their usual spot to find clients, standing outside of Talbots. In terms of getting picked up, Margaret is still not having a ton of luck—one woman was interested until she realized the 70% off sign was for Talbots, not her. This seems to turn around a bit when a wealthy woman approaches Margaret, asking her to meet her at a particular hotel within the hour. As it turns out, this woman’s fetish is being busted by the police, so she hires men to come to the room and arrest Margaret. Poor Margaret doesn’t realize all of this is a setup until Jo tells her. Understandably, she feels a bit betrayed.

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Every screencap makes me realize I’ve failed to mention more witty dialogue. To be fair, this film is 85% witty dialogue.

Later, Margaret recognizes the woman as a Republican Congresswoman. Jo reveals she “accidentally secretly” recorded Margaret with the Congresswoman and wants to sell the tape to CNN. This is a major dick move, as Margaret expresses her discomfort with the idea of becoming rich and (in)famous because of a sex tape.

Though the plot is not really the point of the film, I’m going to leave you in suspense about what happens with the sex tape and Margaret’s growing feelings for Jo. There is some excellent dialogue where both plot points are concerned.

The Critique:

Much like Codependent Lesbian Space Alien, this film is driven by message and character over plot. Both films use sort of a documentary style, and a lot of the comedy is based on the awkwardness of the characters and dialogue.

There are a lot of nice comedic touches, like Margaret and Jo always have to compliment the cleanliness and general appeal of their client’s homes. And I HAVE to mention that when Margaret rejects payment in the form of a Talbots gift card, the client tells her, “Every other time I’ve been to a lesbian hooker, they’ve accepted a gift card to Talbots.”

I think Codependent was a bit more successful as it was more bizarre and had more likeable characters. In Codependent, even Zylar, who was a total player and broke one of the other alien’s hearts, was still likeable and funny. However, in Foxy Merkins, Margaret was basically the only decent human being. Jo was funny but also sort of terrible in contrast to how sweet and genuine Margaret was.

Still another solid film from Madeleine Olnek. I did some searching, and apparently girl just got a Guggenheim Fellowship…I hope that means she’s making a shitload of films.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I think Codependent Lesbian Space Alien is a bit more quirky and fun to watch, but this is still worth seeing. Make it your mission to watch Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.

Find Christa’s review here!

In other news, someone searching for “moon nazis are coming” found my blog (Iron Sky was the first film I reviewed for this blog). DREAMS DO COME TRUE.