The Obscure 1980s Jewish Rom-Com You Need to See

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Crossing Delancey, 1988(Film still)

Happy Hanukkah! In celebration, we examine the lessons to learn from the little-known (but spectacular) 1988 film Crossing Delancey

“I know lots of famous writers, publishers and editors! I organise the most prestigious reading series in New York! Me!” cries exasperated publisher Isabelle ‘Izzy’ Grossman, played by Amy Irving, at her Jewish grandmother, Bubbie, who is unwilling to let go of the fact that her granddaughter doesn’t want to embrace their family’s Fiddler on the Roof-esque traditions. Determined to play the role of match-maker in Izzy’s modern and secular life, Bubbie – portrayed by then 74-year-old Yiddish theatre actress Reizyl Boizky – in the 1988 film Crossing Delancey, champions the unlikely romance between Isabelle and Sam Posner (Peter Riegert), a down-to-earth character who sells pickles for a living on the Lower East Side. 

Izzy initially dismisses this potential suitor as beneath her – a world away from her bohemian, literary lifestyle – but her feelings towards Sam change the more time that the two spend together. Finally, she comes to the realisation that most of the navel-gazing men she encounters in her own social circles only pursue her on a superficial level, shaking Izzy’s misconceptions of where true love can be found. Alongside this rather heartwarming romantic tale, the film is probably as Jew-y as it gets, with Boizky delivering her ‘oy vey iz mir’s with a level of exasperation totally unique to a Jewish matriarch. Today marks the beginning of Hanukkah, so we are taking the opportunity to examine the lessons to learn from this charming rom-com that you probably haven’t seen – but God forbid you don’t watch as soon as humanly possible. 

1. Embrace your frizz

As many women with thick and curly hair will attest, taming it can be an absolute feat of strength, requiring hours with an industrial hairdryer, a pair of GHDs and an entire bottle of John Frieda’s Frizz Ease. By the end of the straightening process, if your arms haven’t actually dropped off, you’ll be left with biceps the size of Sporty Spice. Not Isabelle, though; throughout the film she showcases her natural corkscrew locks to brilliant effect. Embrace your frizz and just think of the time you’ll save in the mornings.

2. Take life with a pinch of salt

As a cultured New York woman, Isabelle prides herself on the sheer amount of highly intellectual material she digests on a daily basis. Boasting of her personal acquaintance with the likes of Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer, she surrounds herself with friends and colleagues who read copies of The Village Voice and Interview Magazine and famous poets who write about the poignancy of eating soft-boiled eggs. In one scene when Isabelle is at home she watches a programme called Arts Peek, in which a performance artist – performing in a benefit for the ‘Guerrilla Women’s Artist Network’ – appears on her TV screen in a costume made of hands chanting “get your hands off her, get your hands off her”. Isabelle might not be taking this spectacle with a large pinch of Kosher salt, but the audience is certainly expected to. 

3. Beware the ‘Lit-Bro’

The ‘Lit-Bro’ is a particular breed of gentleman who believes himself to be the singular re-incarnation of The Beat Generation. As Isabelle immerses herself in New York’s intelligentsia, she comes across writer Anton Maes, who could be described as the Lit-Bro to end them all. “Izzy dear, it is women like you who make the world liquid and even still in beauty born,” he sycophantically writes in a note to her one evening. Later in the film, as Isabelle discusses her perennial state of singledom, Anton recites poetry over the lunch table while seductively gazing into her eyes. Needless to say he turns out to be an utter waste of space, with Isabelle finding a real connection in Sam, free from the shackles of pretension.

4. Dress like Annie Hall 

“Oh my god, it’s the return of Annie Hall,” mocks Isabelle’s friend as she greets her for lunch one day. Indeed, Izzy’s ensembles throughout the film are comprised of oversized androgynous trenchcoats, loose prairie skirts and mannish shoes that pertain to the wardrobe of everyone’s favourite New York style icon. The final flourish to a look that would make Diane Keaton proud is a simple brown felt hat given to her by Sam. Not only does this ensure Izzy looks like a model in a Ralph Lauren catalogue circa 1978, but it acts as a symbol of their humble and honest relationship.

5. The scent of vanilla is the ultimate aphrodisiac

In one of the final scenes, just before Sam and Izzy kiss for the first time, she remarks on the scent of vanilla wafting through Bubbie’s apartment. “It is vanilla,” says Sam, raising his hands towards her. “I soak them in vanilla and milk to take away the smell of the pickles.” Forget your regular eau de toilettes – this is the fragrance to wear in 2018 if you are really looking for true love.