PLOT: On the eve of Yom Kippur, a New Yorker and his pregnant girlfriend visit his increasingly demented father, in whose confused memories lie dreadful secrets. (Unrated) 3 stars
BOTTOM LINE: Wonderfully acted, convincingly written story about family, festering resentments and Holocaust survival.
CAST: Lawrence Pressman, Annie Parisse, Daniel Sauli, Ronald Guttman
For some actors, playing the mentally disordered is like a meaty, hanging softball, so ripe for the big swing it can be missed entirely. No such problem for Lawrence Pressman, whose performance in "Tickling Leo," as the increasingly demented poet and Holocaust survivor Warren Pikler, gives us the man Warren was, is and will be. It isn't easy, but like a long line drive, it's a great thing to watch.
Warren is a reclusive denizen of the Catskills whose son Zak (Daniel Sauli) arrives on Yom Kippur with his pregnant girlfriend, Delphina (Annie Parisse), to find his fears about his father fulfilled: Warren is banging
around naked, confused and victimized by anger about the past. The arrival of his brother Robert (a brilliant Ronald Guttman) agitates him further, and the dim facts about their family's role in the Kasztner Affair (in which Jews were ransomed out of Hungary) come to light. "Tickling Leo," written and directed by Jeremy Davidson and produced by his wife, Mary Stuart Masterson, is far better as a family drama than anything else. The actors, notably Pressman and Parisse, are extraordinary. (The film was a jury winner at the recent Stony Brook Film Festival.)