Sight unseen, Putzel seems the perfect film to have its New York premiere as part of the Tuesday night screening series at the JCC in Manhattan. Like the JCC, it is set in the borough’s Upper West Side. And like both the neighborhood and the JCC, it is oh so Jewish.
What could go wrong? Sadly, at some point you actually have to watch it.
The central character, Walter Himmelstein, was nicknamed Putzel by his grandfather, Harry. Walter’s sole ambition is to eventually take over the UWS institution Harry founded, Himmelstein’s House of Lox, and run it for 40 years.
Walter, however, isn’t the little putz his grandfather named him; that carries a negative connotation. He’s a hapless shlimazel, played by Jack T. Carpenter, a young actor who has made a career of playing shlemiels and shlimazels (“Lipschitz Saves The World,” “I Love You Beth Cooper”).
How shlemiel-y is Walter? For one thing, he is literally unable to venture beyond the store’s delivery zone — from 59th Street in the south to 116th Street in the north. Why? He has granddaddy issues with the constantly-critical Harry, who raised him after his parents died in an automobile accident when Walter was still an infant. It’s because of Harry that Walter lacks confidence, has lost his wife (he discovered her in bed with another guy) and is geographically limited.