Hanukkah on Rye

Tradition!

If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, or The Shop Around the Corner, this movie will hold no surprises as far as the romance is concerned. But this movie adds family, history, culture and food to the classic romance plot line.

Molly in New York City and Jacob in California are the young single scions of Jewish families who have been in the delicatessen business for 3 (or maybe 4?)  generations. Jacob in California is being sent to New York City to finalize buying their new location. Molly helps run her family’s deli, Gilbert’s, which turns out to be on the same street as the future site of Zimmer’s, Jacob’s family’s new location. Gilbert’s is old school featuring only Jewish food and promotion and technology averse. Zimmer’s is just the opposite, carrying food for all ethnicities and embracing modernity. While Jacob is in NYC his grandmother engages a matchmaker for him as Molly’s family does for her, anxious as they are for them each to find nice Jewish spouses to spawn a new generation of deli owners. They very reluctantly agree to give it a try. They write to each other long hand on paper per the rules under aliases which they will dispense with if they think they may have a future. The very notion of not using the internet to communicate freaks them both out. (“Does she also want me to write with a quill on papyrus under candlelight?!”) They coincidentally also live in the same apartment building getting to know each other face to face while writing to each other anonymously.  You know the drill.

Molly is struggling to bring her family’s business into the 21st century as it is on the verge of going under. Jacob, who finds out that he is actually writing to the same woman he is falling in love with in person struggles both with knowing he will soon be hostile competition and also his guilt in not having the guts to tell her the truth.

When his family shows up in NYC concerned as to why Jacob is dragging his feet and still hasn’t closed the deal, the fit really hits the shan. The two Bubbes both meet the matchmaker at the same time intent on demanding a refund, and Jacob’s true identity comes to light. The ideal solution to the problem of two competing delis on the same street is solved when the two grandmothers learn how it could be possible that their two families’ secret latke recipes are identical. An assist from The Fiddler on the Roof did not come amiss either, reminding one and all that change should be embraced and not avoided.

The whole cast was on point.  Paula Shaw is a standout (as usual) as Jacob’s Bubbe. Whenever she narrows her eyes into slits of anger or suspicion it would cause strong men to tremble and cower in fear. She is hilarious. Another stand out is the anonymous doorman who knows all between the two anonymous correspondents right from the beginning. Also a hoot while barely saying a word. Jeremy Jordan, who was so great in Mix-up in the Mediterranean, plays Jacob, and Yaol Grobglas is sympathetic and lovable as Molly. A classic plot, a well-written and witty script, excellent acting, and attractive leads. Check, check, check, and check. I also have had good luck with Hanukkah stories at Christmas. Check.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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