Kissing Jessica Stein

Kissing Jessica Stein


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

So Jessica, so New York.

This time it's Jewish, sexually inquisitive and female. Definitely a talkie, highly sophisticated, as neurotic as inbred Siamese, it has the indie pedigree - written by the lead actors (Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen), financed by angels and relatives, helmed by a gay theatre director (Charles Herman-Wurmfeld) who has never made a full length movie before, shot in the streets, an art gallery and people's apartments.

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Jessica (Westfeldt) is a bit scatty. She's intelligent enough, in fact, way above average, but as her mother keeps saying, "Noone is good enough for her." Of course, it's not true. She's picky, that's all.

Helen (Juergensen) treats sex as a sport. She's in training and has at least two guys on tap at any one time. A quickie in the broom cupboard at the office? No problemo! She works at a gallery, so it's not a broom cupboard, it's an art cupboard.

She's adventurous. She likes to explore new ideas, mainly because the old ones become boring. What she hasn't tried yet is girl-on-girl, the full lesbian experience. She puts an ad in the paper and makes it sound pretentiously literary.

Jessica is nervous of her feelings. She answers the ad, because it intrigues her, and then tries to run away at the meeting point. Helen recovers the situation and they end up in a cab talking about lipstick.

"What do you do to be happy?" Helen asks.

"Nothing," Jessica says. "And I'm not."

The film is about their relationship and how it affects their friends, Jessica's family, work mates and anyone who knows them. Jessica's in denial most of the time, half-ashamed, half-exhilarated. Helen's cool. If it feels right, it is, right?

There is a segment of Gurinder Chadha's wonderful What's Cooking about a dutiful Jewish daughter bringing her girlfriend to her parents' house for Thanksgiving and noone realising that they're sleeping together. Kissing Jessica Stein constructs an entire movie around a similar theme. The dialogue is witty, the observations sharp, but, in the end, what appears hesitant is slight.

Chasing Amy, about a comicbook illustrator who falls in love with a lesbian, was hilarious, but that was a guy thing and this is much more gay. Also, somewhere close to the surface is a message that reads: "It's better than you thought possible. Why not give it a try."

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2002
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Kissing Jessica Stein packshot
After a series of bad dates with men, a neurotic Jewish Manhattan copy editor answers a personal ad from a woman - and unexpectedly falls for her.
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Read more Kissing Jessica Stein reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld

Writer: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen

Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen, Tovah Feldshuh.

Year: 2002

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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