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Frank D. Gilroy
It's 1896. Yankel Bogovnik, a Russian Jew, emigrated to the United States three years earlier and has settled where many of his background have, namely on Hester Street on the Lower East Side of New York City. He has assimilated to American life, having learned English, anglicized his name to Jake, and shaved off his beard. He is working at a $12/week job as a seamster, the money earned to be able to bring his wife Gitl and his son Yossele to America from Russia. Regardless, he has fallen in love with another woman, a dancer named Mamie Fein. Nonetheless, he is excited when he learns that Gitl and Yossele are indeed coming to America. His happiness at their arrival is dampened when he sees that Gitl is not "American" looking like Mamie and has troubles assimilating as quickly as he would like. Except to Mamie, he tries to show a public façade that everything is fine at home with Gitl. But can their marriage survive these differences, and if not, will Gitl be able to manage in this new... Written by
With its black-and-white cinematography, soundtrack music, and Jewish characters, this film at times reminded me superficially of a Woody Allen movie. But writer/director Joan Micklin Silver made an original film here. If you like a movie that immerses you in a less-familiar culture you might give 'Hester Street' a try.
Steven Keats plays a Russian emigre who prides himself on the way he's molded himself into a real Yankee in the USA, though the world he lives in, New York's Lower East Side in the late 19th century, is almost exclusively populated by other Jewish immigrants. When his wife (Carol Kane) finally arrives in the New World, however, she has a lot of assimilating to do. This causes the tension which drives the movie along, though it maintains a fairly light atmosphere most of the time.
Keats and Kane do fine jobs in their roles; in fact, Kane was nominated for an Academy Award. Dorrie Kavanaugh and Doris Roberts are among the good supporting cast.
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