Then Playing — Crossing Delancey; The Climb; Don’t Let Go

Crossing Delancey (Joan Micklin Silver, 1988). This gentle romantic comedy has the wafting charm of a fable. Isabelle (Amy Irving) is an independent New Yorker with a habit of dabbling with the wrong men. When her grandmother (Reizl Bozyk) enlists a matchmaker (Sylvia Miles, in a delightfully colorful performance) to finally get her beloved girl married off to a proper, upstanding fellow, it’s pickle peddler Sam (Peter Riegert) who comes knocking. Writer-director Joan Micklin Silver indelibly captures New York City in the nineteen-eighties, with special attention and affection for the enclaves rich with Jewish culture. Crossing Delancey has the warmth often found in Woody Allen’s depiction of the metropolis, but without the sense that it emanates from a place of privilege that loses sight of the city’s earthier dynamics and more canny denizens. There was a time when this sort of movie could be made with an emphasis on the characters rather than whatever goofy storytelling hook provided the axis for the pitch meeting and the eventual marketing campaign.

The Climb (Michael Angelo Covino, 2020). Tracking a friendship through ups, downs, betrayals, heartbreaks, and deeper downs, The Climb is a clever, bleak comedy. Directed and co-written by Michael Angelo Covino, who also takes one of the lead roles, the film skips across time, capturing particularly momentous moments, often depicted using long takes as the camera swerves around little a bumper car. Kyle Marvin is the other co-writer and he plays the other lead, a perpetual punching bag who can’t quite help himself from coasting in situations he suspects will bring him dismay. If the storytelling sometimes clanks in a way that reveals its mechanics, the overall drive of the filmmaking reflects an admirable dedication to putting this material to film with verve and ingenuity. Consistently funny and occasionally dark, The Climb accumulates enough moments of real emotional integrity to ensure that it’s oddly moving in the final assessment.

Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes, 2019). Complicated to the point of convolution, Jacob Aaron Estes’s thriller follows Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo), a Los Angeles homicide detective, as he investigates a grisly crime that resulted in the deaths of several family members, including his beloved niece, Ashley (Storm Reid). His off-the-books sleuthing is prompted by some unexplained time-space-continuum rift that allows him to communicate by cellphone with Ashley in the recent past, and he’s further heartened by the implication that he may be able to change her fate if he cracks the case in time. To his great credit, Estes nearly makes this loopy hogwash work, mostly by committing unashamedly to his conceit and giving Oyelowo the space to play his character with anxious gravity rather than winking detachment. There’s also a nice, small supporting turn by Brian Tyree Henry, as Jack’s brother and Ashley’s dad, that further establishes him a master of slipping into a movie for a few moments and using subtlety to swipe scenes like a cat burglar.

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