Crossing Delancey (1988)

Crossing Delancey (1988)

Taglines: A funny movie about getting serious.

Isabelle’s life revolves around the New York bookshop she works in and the intellectual friends of both sexes she meets there. Her grandmother remains less than impressed and decides to hire a good old-fashioned Jewish matchmaker to help Isabelle’s love-life along. Enter pickle-maker Sam who immediately takes to Isabelle. She however is irritated by the whole business, at least to start with.

Crossing Delancey is a romantic comedy film starring Amy Irving and Peter Riegert that was released in 1988. It is directed by Joan Micklin Silver and was based on a play by Susan Sandler, who also wrote the screenplay. Amy Irving was nominated for a Golden Globe for the movie, for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy / Musical.

Film Review for Crossing Delancey

Isabelle (Izzy) Grossman’s grandmother lives a life steeped in old-world Jewish culture on the Lower East Side of New York. Her parents live, as the grandmother describes it, ”in Florida with Red Buttons” (in a retirement community there).

As for where Izzy herself lives, that’s harder to say. She has a small, not terribly hospitable apartment on the Upper West Side and doesn’t seem to spend much time there. She pays frequent visits to her grandmother, fitting determinedly but a little uncomfortably into the life of the Lower East Side. And she also has a job at a fashionable bookstore, an elite place that particularly prides itself on the small soirees that draw celebrated authors. In this world, Izzy is, among other things, a potential party favor.

Crossing Delancey (1988)

”Crossing Delancey,” which opens today at the Plaza, is about the process whereby 33-year-old Izzy, played charmingly and believably by Amy Irving, finally figures out where she stands. Her past catches up with her in the form of a pickle merchant named Sam Posner (Peter Riegert). Sam is single. He’s responsible. He loves old ladies, particularly Isabelle’s grandmother, and he’s generous almost to a fault. He’s also understanding, hardworking, athletic and very patient about Izzy’s identity problems. Although he can be found in a little shop where the sign reads, ”A joke and a pickle for only a nickel,” it’s clear that a man like this belongs in the Smithsonian.

Izzy is also courted by a Very Famous Author of the married variety (Jeroen Krabbe), a jaded, world-weary celebrity who woos her with Confucius’s words about ripe plums; Izzy is terribly impressed, needless to say. It is encounters like this, and the fact that her job allows her to have Isaac Bashevis Singer’s unlisted home telephone number, that keep Izzy in thrall to the literary world. What’s more, at the bookstore she’s a rising star, and she can give as good as she gets. Momentarily confounded by Confucius, she quickly tells the author: ”What I love most about your writing is its deceptive accessibility. It reads like pulp fiction, and then you hear music.”

It’s not hard to tell from this, and from the humorous depiction of the bookstore crowd’s snobbery, where the film’s heart really lies. But what makes ”Crossing Delancey” so appealing is the warm and leisurely way it arrives at its inevitable conclusion. All the different aspects of Izzy’s busy, contradiction-filled life are carefully drawn, giving the film a realistic, well-populated feeling and a nicely wry view of the modern world. Yet somehow the director, Joan Micklin Silver, and the writer, Susan Sandler (adapting her own play), manage to combine a down-to-earth, contemporary outlook with the dreaminess of a fairy tale.

There’s an element of overstatement to all this, as evidenced by the presence of Sylvia Miles in the role of an old-world marriage broker. ”Ya look, ya meet, ya try, ya see,” says she, while digging messily into a meal served in Izzy’s grandmother’s kitchen. Yet somehow in this setting, Miss Miles seems a lot less flamboyant than usual. The film’s style is deliberately broad, but the actors give it humor and delicacy. Miss Irving, who’s in virtually every scene, gives Izzy a refreshing worldliness, a hint of disappointment and a hard-won wisdom that banish any trace of ingenuousness from the role. Alluring in some scenes and vaguely irritable in others, sometimes in the downtown scenes displaying an uptown hauteur that makes the character that much more credible (as in her first meeting with the suitor who’s introduced as a pickle merchant), she is able to span the full breadth of this character’s crazily inconsistent world.

The film’s scene-stealer is 74-year-old Reizl Bozyk, a star of the Yiddish theater who plays Izzy’s Bubbie (pronounced to rhyme with Chubby) as a perfect Everygranny, loving, teasing and pestering at the same time. Miss Bozyk also has the film’s best lines, like, ”Get off your high horse, Miss Universe” (to a matchmaker-resisting Izzy) and, ”She lives alone in a room like a dog” (by way of explaining her granddaughter’s apartment). ”You want to catch the wild monkey, you got to climb the tree,” she finally advises, when at long last Izzy realizes she may have condescended to Mr. Right one time too many. The film’s ending, though terribly trumped up, nicely affirms Miss Bozyk’s efficacy as a grandmotherly Cupid.

”Crossing Delancey” includes several sharply edged supporting performances, with Rosemary Harris as a fully clawed literary lioness, Mr. Krabbe as the lazily seductive writer and Suzzy Roche, of the singing Roche sisters, adding a distinctly modern touch as Izzy’s pragmatic, unattached friend. The Roches’ warm, gossamer harmonies also weave through the film’s opening and closing scenes, heightening the power of its romantic spell.

Crossing Delancey Movie Poster (1988)

Crossing Delancey (1988)

Directed by: Joan Micklin Silver
Starring: Amy Irving, Peter Riegert, Reizl Bozyk, Jeroen Krabbé, Sylvia Miles, George Martin, Rosemary Harris, Amy Wright, Deborah Offner, Kathleen Wilhoite
Screenplay by: Susan Sandler
Production Design by: Dan Leigh
Cinematography by: Theo van de Sande
Film Editing by: Rick Shaine
Costume Design by: Rita Ryack
Set Decoration by: Daniel Boxer
Art Direction by: Leslie E. Rollins
Music by: Paul Chihara
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: August 24, 1988