`Crossing Delancey' with too much help. Amy Irving stars in warm Jewish tale
New York — Some people have called ``Crossing Delancey'' a Jewish version of ``Moonstruck,'' and they have a point. It's another story about a bright, savvy New York woman who has to choose between two men while coping with a tricky family situation. All the main characters in ``Moonstruck'' were Italian-American, though, while in ``Crossing Delancey'' most are Jewish - and in a couple of cases, very ethnic and observant indeed. Isabelle Grossman is the heroine. She's pretty; she's young (well, thirtysomething); and she enjoys her unmarried life very much. But her grandmother - her name is Mrs. Kantor, but everyone calls her Bubbie - has different ideas about the good life. ``Get married, get married!'' she insists all day long. Isabelle says maybe she will, but she's in no hurry; she's content with her friends, her occasional romances, and her job in a highbrow Manhattan bookstore. Bubbie isn't the patient kind of grandma, though, and she calls an expert in on the case: Hannah Mandelbaum, the local marriage broker. Hannah has just the right man, she says, for Isabelle's needs. His name is Sam Posner, and he's a serious young man who runs a pickle business downtown.
A picklemaker is the last man Isabelle would think of, if she were in a hurry for marriage, so she firmly turns Sam down. Anyway, she thinks she may be falling in love on her own - with Anton Maes, a European author whose books are sold at the shop where she works. The pickle man won't give up easily, though; so it's a dilemma for Isabelle - to please Bubbie and go out with Sam, or follow her own instincts and go with Anton, who's looking less and less like the dream lover she hoped he was.
``Crossing Delancey'' was directed by Joan Micklin Silver, who has a good eye and ear for ethnic details; her most popular movie is ``Hester Street,'' which also dealt with New York's deep-rooted Jewish community. She and screenwriter Susan Sandler paint a vivid portrait of Isabelle and the everyday problems that loom so large in her life.
The movie's other big asset is a mostly excellent cast. Amy Irving is at her best as Isabelle, making her strong, attractive, and vulnerable at the same time. Peter Riegert, star of ``Local Hero'' and other films, is also superb as the pickle man. He underplays every scene, never raising his voice or making an extra movement, yet his character is fully alive every moment he's on the screen.
Unfortunately, the movie does have one big problem - the performance of Yiddish actress Reizl Bozyk as Bubbie. The part is overwritten to begin with, and Miss Bozyk overplays it badly. It doesn't help the effect of this gentle romance when you want to yell ``Shut up, already!'' every time the sweet old grandma starts to open her mouth.
Back on the plus side, there's a lively music score by the Roches, and Suzzy Roche makes a terrific movie-acting debut as Isabelle's best friend. Even with grandma overdoing things, ``Crossing Delancey'' is a warm and appealing visit with some warm and lovable people - and that's good reason to welcome this ``Moonstruck, Jewish-American Style.''