At the other end of the emotional scale is Checking Out, shown on Monday, May 7. With a very high punch-lines-per-minute ratio, it features Peter Falk at his comedic best. A good thing, too, since the film is ostensibly about a ninety-year-old who summons his three children home to attend his suicide party. But Falk's Morris Applebaum is no ordinary nonagenarian. Along with his late wife, Vera, he was a Yiddish Theater star who also specialized in Shakespeare. Here he is Prospero conjuring a huge familial Tempest, or Big Fat Jewish Suicide, as his daughter notes.
Checking Out is not all laugh riot. Morris roars with indignation at his car dealer son for selling German automobiles, and even more for quoting Hamlet to advertise them. He speaks poignantly of his grief at Vera's death and justifies his planned suicide with "I was an actor. I always knew the end. I didn't live as an audience, not knowing what was coming next."
When his therapist son (Judge Reinhold) complains, "This is serious," Morris responds, "That's why we're joking."
Both these films and indeed all the other movies in the festival are about human, rather than exclusively Jewish, stories.