Joan Micklin Silver’s ‘Crossing Delancey’ Charms the Audience With its Simple New York Romance

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Director Joan Micklin Silver and writer Susan Sandler teamed up in 1988 to create Crossing Delancey. Based on a play of the same name, the film is a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of Manhattan. (KIZJ: 3.5/5) 

Review by FF2 Contributing Editor Katusha Jin

“Isabelle Grossman” (Amy Irving) is a Jewish girl in her thirties who works at a bookstore in New York. As the film opens, it’s a busy night for the store, with many writers and poets milling around networking with each other at the soiree. Amongst the many literary artists is the European poet “Anton Maes” (Jeroen Krabbé). During the first encounter between Anton and Isabelle, he signs a copy of his book and gifts it to her with an air of arrogance. Flattered by his words, Isabelle leaves work in a dizzy spell—as though this could be the start of something magical. Unfortunately, it’s quite apparent to any third party that his intentions most likely lie elsewhere.

Back at her grandmother’s place, “Bubbie Kantor” (Reizl Bozyk) has arranged for her granddaughter to meet a matchmaker who goes by the name “Hannah Mandelbaum” (Sylvia Miles). It’s odd to them that a nice lady like Isabelle is still without a husband and children. Nevertheless, they have nothing to fear because Hannah has found the perfect candidate—“Sam Posner” (Peter Riegert). Upon hearing that she’s been matched with the owner of a Lower East Side pickle store, Isabelle turns her nose with an arrogance that’s not unlike Anton’s. After all, she feels like she’s part of the upper circle of literary socialites now. A man from downtown, and especially one who works with pickles all day, seems below her. Again and again, Isabelle remains hopeful about her acquaintance with Anton, but he always manages to leave her hanging one way or another. As much as this makes her feel uneasy, she ends up doing the same to kind and thoughtful Sam. Her self importance blinds her. Hereon, the movie develops this love triangle, somewhat puppeteered by the sweet Bubbie.

Director Joan Micklin Silver’s film is an attractive attempt to tell a romantic coming-of-age story, except not of children, but of a woman into her power. It’s clear from the start that although Isabelle believes that she knows herself well, she is, in fact, rather lost. Yes, she has a job, and yes, she is financially independent, but her thoughts are influenced very easily by those she considers her betters, which in this case are published writers. This classist, judgmental perspective has made her lose the ability to evaluate what qualities are actually important in a person.

The film is very warming in the way it tells its story. The overall arc, in Susan Sandler’s script, of how each relationship develops is quite realistic. Isabelle isn’t a very likable character, in my opinion, but she’s as flawed as any person in real life is. For this reason, I think this ends up helping the film by placing a romantic fairytale amid real life. However, I do take issue with some of the dialogue—so much of it acts more as fluff than as essential additions to the characters. At times I would even prefer the characters not to talk at all. I wish Sam and Isabelle had more chances to discuss deeper subjects.

Amy Irving, Peter Riegert, and Reizl Bozyk act their parts very well. Bozyk graces the screen with humor and authenticity as the nosy, overly caring, but ever so charming character we all picture popping up during big family reunions. Crossing Delancey, albeit not perfect, is quite magical in its own way. Its depiction of New York and the characters of the city is timeless, making for an enjoyable watch.

© Katusha Jin (11/30/2020) FF2 Media

Featured Photo: Amy IrvingReizl Bozyk, and Sylvia Miles 

Middle Photo: Amy IrvingReizl Bozyk, and Peter Riegert

Bottom Photo: Amy Irving and Reizl Bozyk

Photo Credits: Warner Bros.

Q: Does Crossing Delancey pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Yes, there are brief moments when women talk about careers and what’s on the dining table.

Tags: Crossing Delancey, FF2 Media, Joan Micklin Silver, Katusha Jin, Susan Sandler, TCM WomenMakeFilm, Turner Classic Movies, Women Make Film, WomenMakeFilms

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As part of the FF2 Media team, Katusha Jin interviews filmmakers, write features and reviews, and coaches other associates. She grew up in the UK and studied briefly in Russia and China before moving to New York for college. Graduating magna cum laude from New York University, Katusha majored in Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts with minors in Business and Philosophy. She has worked as a producer, director, writer, and composer for various award-winning projects including short films, branded content, independent features, and music videos.
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