August 29, 1988 12:00 PM

If you’ve never thought of pickles in romantic terms, prepare to have your perceptions altered. Like his father before him, Peter (Local Hero) Riegert sells pickles from a stand on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, dipping one hand in the dill and making change with the other. You can just feel the trendy crowd recoil. Amy (Yentl) Irving isn’t thrilled about it either. Though her grandmother still lives in Riegert’s neighborhood, Irving has moved on to a West Side apartment and a tony job setting up literary readings for a Midtown bookstore. What could she see in a guy who soaks his fingers in vanilla and milk to mask the smell? You’d be surprised. Director Joan Micklin Silver examined New York Jewish life at the turn of the century in her 1975 film, Hester Street. Now, filming Susan Sandler’s 1985 off-Broadway play, Silver brings the Old World crashing into the Modern Age. Result? The year’s most beguiling movie romance. Irving thinks she’s happy juggling a casual affair with a married man (John Bedford Lloyd) and a serious flirtation with a best-selling author, a part snake-part charmer wittily acted by Jeroen (The Living Daylights) Krabbe. Grandma, played by 74-year-old Yiddish stage actress Reizl Bozyk in a spectacular film debut, knows only that her granddaughter is unmarried. So she hires the local matchmaker, hilariously overplayed by Sylvia Miles, to introduce “Miss Fancy” to a decent single man with a good business. At first, Irving can’t see beyond her pickle prejudice. Only after she sets up Riegert with her best friend (Suzzy Roche of the singing Roche Sisters) does she realize what she’s losing. The audience has caught on long ago. Riegert delivers a master actor’s performance, a blend of intelligence, wit and feeling. Irving, never more bewitching, is hooked. You will be too. Silver’s moonbeam of a movie sends you home walking on air. (PG)

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