This reminds me of a Woody Allen movie in that it takes place entirely in Manhattan, and it’s a Manhattan where no one has a boring cubicle job, and no one works in Manhattan’s biggest industry which is banking and finance. But it’s a lot more outwardly Jewish than the typical Woody Allen movie. This movie contains, perhaps, the best on-screen depiction of a briss in the history of American cinema.
This movie can’t really be discussed properly without giving away the ending, so I’d suggest, perhaps, that you watch it before reading the rest of this post. This movie can be watched for free online if you have a Netflix subscription. It’s a pretty enjoyable movie to watch and not too long. You definitely want to read the rest of this post either now or later because it’s one of my better movie reviews. There’s lots of good stuff about alpha and beta males.
On the surface, Crossing Delancey may seem like the typical romantic comedy that has been done a million times: boy meets girl, boy chases girl, boy wins girl, they live happily ever after. But actually, I think the real story is a lot more ambivalent, which is why I liked it.
“Izzy,” played by the cute looking Amy Irving (at least she still looked cute in 1988 when she was 35), has some kind of dead end job working at a snooty Manhattan bookstore, but she has convinced herself that her “career” is highly desirable because she gets to meet a lot of stuck-up pseudo-intellectual writers. Her favorite part of the job is setting up and observing small get-togethers featuring these writers stroking each others’ over-inflated egos. The movie even explains how she can afford to live in Manhattan with such a job—she has a rent controlled apartment.
At the beginning of the movie, Izzy is attracted to Anton, an especially stuck-up pseudo-intellectual novelist with a European accent. Anton is an alpha-male within the literary world. Izzy invites him to lunch with her, and he brings along his hot (bookish hot librarian sort of hot) assistant, and he obnoxiously fondles her behind in front of Izzy. Does Izzy get pissed about this and decide never to see the guy again? No way. Alpha males can get away with behavior like this. The women dig it and keep coming back.
Izzy has a grandmother she calls “Bubbie,” who lives on the Lower East Side. This is still an old school Jewish neighborhood in the movie. I’m not sure how accurate that is, even in 1988. I think all the Jews had left the Lower East Side by the end of the 1970s. Anyway, Bubbie invites Izzy over for dinner, and surprises her when a Jewish “marriage broker” also shows up. The marriage broker is there to introduce Izzy to Sam Posner, a guy who owns a nearby pickle store. Sam is a fine upstanding middle-class small business owner who still has roots in the old school Jewish community. In one scene, he’s wearing a City College sweatshirt. We can imagine that he did go to City College before he took over his dad’s pickle business. All Jewish boys go to college. Sam isn’t a dummy, but he’s not into Izzy’s pseudo-intellectual literary scene. He prefers going to a Mets game over attending one of her literary get-togethers.
So what exactly does Sam see in Izzy if they have absolutely nothing in common? It’s not politically correct in the real world to say that the only thing you like about a woman is her looks, but this seems to be perfectly acceptable and standard behavior in romantic comedies.
Not only do Sam and Izzy share nothing in common, Izzy demonstrates over and over again that she’s an inconsiderate person. When they first meet, Izzy puts Sam down for being just a pickle store owner and not intellectual enough to be worthy of her company. Then Izzy pretends to invite Sam on a date so she can set him up with her friend. I thought that was a nice enough thing to do. But at the restaurant, Izzy has second thoughts, and decides to hog Sam to herself while she leaves her friend stranded at the bar. Her friend is justifiably pissed at her.
It’s not clear why Izzy changes her mind about Sam. Guilt seems to be a big part of it. Izzy feels guilty for rejecting Sam for no good reason. In an earlier scene, Izzy tried to let Sam down easy by telling him he’s a nice guy. Sam says something like, “What does that mean? Would you like me better if I knocked you around a bit?” Sam has successfully used a classic beta-male tactic that seldom works in the real world. He wins the girl by making her feel too guilty to reject him.
Near the end of the movie, Izzy sort of decides that she’s going to let Sam be her boyfriend. She sets up a dinner at Bubbie’s apartment with Sam and the marriage broker. But just as she’s about to leave the bookstore on her way downtown, Anton shows a renewed interest in her and invites her over to his apartment to read from the new novel he’s writing. Izzy is unable to resist the alpha male, so she goes over to Anton’s and leaves Sam to fend for himself over at Bubbie’s. While Izzy is hanging out with Anton, Bubbie and Sam are getting drunk on Schnapps. Sam is the kind of guy that grandmothers like a lot better than their granddaughters.
The only reason why Izzy leaves Anton’s apartment is because he reveals to her his plan to hire her as his new secretary. Izzy finally has enough of the jerk. She thought he was interested in her as a girlfriend, and not as a secretary with benefits. So she leaves and takes a cab downtown to Bubbie’s where, quite pathetically, Bubbie has fallen asleep on the couch but Sam is still hanging around hoping that Izzy will show up.
The movie ends shortly after that; Sam and Izzy are happily together. Or are they? One of the things I like about this movie is that it doesn’t show them getting married to each other a year later at a happy wedding. You are free to imagine your own alternative ending. I imagine that, a few weeks later, Izzy meets a new pseudo-intellectual alpha-male type, and she dumps Sam like a cold pickle. My ending is probably what really happened.