The producers made it too easy for the critics when they used the word ''lemon'' in this movie's title. It's tempting to write off this quirky little comedy. After all, its theatrical run was shorter than most people's vacations. But The Lemon Sisters deserves a second chance, as a welcome change from the no-brain-and-less-heart movies that line the shelves of video stores.
Friends-forever Eloise (Diane Keaton), Franki (Carol Kane), and Nola (Kathryn Grody) moonlight as an admittedly third-rate singing act. They fantasize about opening their own nightclub until those crises of the female buddy genre sickness, hurt feelings, boyfriend problems ground them in reality and challenge their friendship. Set in a fading Atlantic City, this sister of Beaches is as sticky sweet as the salt water taffy Nola sells. What saves the film from its flimsy script is the talent of the three leads, especially Kane, who gives an exceptionally touching performance. Aidan Quinn, Ruben Blades, and even Elliott Gould rise above their roles to give the film a much-needed edge.
''The trick,'' says Nola, ''is to know what to let go of and what to hold on to.'' If the writers had fully heeded their own words, maybe the theaters showing The Lemon Sisters wouldn't have been as empty as the boardwalk in winter. C