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Kissing Jessica Stein (R)
20th Century Fox
Official Site
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Producers: Brad Zions, Eden Wurmfeld, Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen
Written by: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen
Cast: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Tovah Feldshuh, Esther Wurmfeld, Ben Feldman, Robert Art, Hillel Friedman, Scott Cohen, Ben Weber, Brian Stepanek, Nick Corley, Jackie Hoffman, John Cariani
Rating: out of 5


Films like Kissing Jessica Stein don’t come along very often—the last movie featuring a lesbian couple was the 1999 production Better Than Chocolate —and it was with this in mind that I highly anticipated this release, and hoped that it would live up to the hype that I, if not the media, generated about it. With the exception of a few plot glitches that had more to do with my personal taste than anything inherently wrong with the movie, I wasn’t disappointed.

A very important point about the film’s main character, Jessica (Westfeldt): She isn’t so much opposed to the idea of dating men as she is disgusted by the men she’s dated so far. My point is that when we meet Jessica, she’s not a lesbian; she’s just fed up with men. This is crucial to the rest of the film and influences most, if not all of what happens from beginning to end. With that said, Jessica stumbles across a personal ad placed by Helen (Juergensen), who, in spite of being female, is a perfect match for Jessica. The two meet—Jessica begrudgingly, Helen willingly—and begin a relationship amid some doubt and serious sexual hang-ups on Jessica’s part, which I suppose is to be expected considering the huge lifestyle leap she makes, seemingly overnight. Helen, to her credit, is patient and supportive. Jessica, unfortunately for Helen, is picky and petty and very much a real-life character.

And Jessica’s biggest problem is perhaps understandable: She refuses to tell anyone about her newfound love for Helen for fear of being rejected by her friends and family (especially her mother, who is constantly trying to set up Jessica with Nice Jewish Men she can’t even pretend to be interested in). Helen, also understandably, resents Jessica’s secrecy and breaks off their relationship. The two eventually get back together, only to break up for good when it becomes clear to Helen that Jessica doesn’t want a woman any more. Jessica, instead, is interested in men again, namely Josh (Cohen), an old college boyfriend and former boss who plays a small but significant role in the film. So Helen finds another girlfriend, Jessica and Helen remain the best of friends, and life goes on.

I (and much of the audience) laughed throughout the comparably short 94 minutes afforded for this film, but the ending left a lot to be desired. Despite my annoyance with too-cute movies that end with the happy lovers strolling off into the sunset, all of their problems resolved; and my annoyance with Jessica, who wasn’t always likable due to her hang-ups with everything —I would have liked for just this one film to end with the happy couple still happy. Together. I was left with the feeling that Helen was simply a stepping-stone for Jessica. The end of Jessica and Helen’s relationship also signaled the end of Jessica’s dating rut, and she was content to date men again as if Helen had never happened. Sure, in the end both of them found what they wanted, but shouldn’t this genre of movie lend itself to a happily-ever-after (together) ending, if for no other reason than to send out the message that not only can lesbian relationships be successful, but that they can be depicted as being successful on film? The end of Kissing Jessica Stein , however, does keep with the realities of life, and the film could do a lot worse than to depict life without the glamour that is often thrown in to appease the Hollywood-engrossed masses.

Sarah Andrews

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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