Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's Very Fancy

I recently watched Crossing Delancey--which happens to be on TCM today.   It's a small romantic comedy that was a modest success when released in 1988. Watching it now, you realize it's become a sort of time capsule.  For one thing, the lead, Amy Irving, plays Isabelle, a women with a job in a Manhattan bookstore. In fact, her cultural life seems to revolve around this place.  How much longer will we see that?

There are plenty of scenes taking place on the street, and the film has a romantic view of Isabelle's world (even if Isabelle isn't always thrilled by it).  I wonder if the passing of time has made it more romantic?  Though the movie itself has built-in nostalgia from its own period--we see a disappearing Jewish world, featuring Amy Irving's Bubbie (Reizl Bozyk, who'd been a star of the Yiddish stage) and a matchmaker (Sylvia Miles--though a little of her goes a long way).

What's surprising is how little action there is.  The script is by Susan Sandler, based on her play, and is directed by Joan Micklin Silver, who'd already made other small, fascinating art films, like Hester Street and Between The Lines.  Irving's dilemma is basically she isn't sure what she wants.

She longs for for author Anton Maes (played by Jeroen Krabbe, so you know he'll turn out to be a rotter), and is stimulated by the literary world, so when she's set up with Sam Posner (Peter Riegert), who runs a pickle store, she doesn't feel any spark.  In general, she says doesn't need a matchmaker, she's happy with her life,.

Still, Sam is a solid guy.  He's kind and gentle and understanding, and not stupid.  It takes Isabelle a long time, but eventually she gets it, and that's the movie. If she figured it out right away, we could go home early.

What holds the film together are the two leads.  I'd always considered Amy Irving beautiful (look at Carrie or The Fury if you don't believe me) but here she's aging just a little--still lovely, but not an impossibly young knockout who wouldn't be believable.  And while you can see a confident woman, you can also spot a little sadness. (Irving, by the way, is not helped by her curly hairdo.  Sometimes I wonder if certain directors didn't want to play down her looks.)

But it's Riegert who centers the film.  He's decent looking, but not dazzling--it would throw off the story if he were. His performance is surprisingly still.  He's charming when he needs to be, but mostly he's quiet, as if he understands he has value, and is willing to wait for Isabelle to discover him.

Riegert never became a big star.  He'd started out in Animal House, which got him plenty of notice, and then did some memorable work in Local Hero, but since Delancey has mostly done supporting work.  You never know.

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