"Kissing Jessica Stein"
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld.
Written by Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.
Starring Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.
Release Year: 2001
Review Date: 4/3/02
Shit, y'all wanna hang out? I'll hang out!
Sorry, I just love saying that. I've been
saying that to everyone I know the last three weeks, and now I think
it is really gonna catch on. So, in that same vein of thought,
Shit, y'all like lesbian flicks? I'll watch
I went over to one of San Francisco's dozen
art-house theaters to watch the bi-curious love story "Kissing
Jessica Stein", because I have seen almost every other film in the
city that's out right now. Yes, I've seen that many movies in the
last few weeks. Anyway, this film has a reasonably interesting
premise: a Jewish 20-something worker bee (Jennifer Westfeldt) is
suffering failure after failure in the hetero dating field, so she
answers an ad in the Village Voice (Jews in movies seem to all live
in New York City, don't they?) in the "women seeking women"
section. After meeting the owner of the ad, attractive bi-sexual
20-something Helen (Heather Juergensen), Jessica overcomes some
initial jitters about lesbian sex and telling her friends about
dating a girl to discover a great relationship.
Here's the best way I can describe this
experience as a straight male: this film features almost nothing
that appeals to me. You come in thinking there will be some
interesting lesbian conversation or sex scenes or something out of
the ordinary...but, none of this film seems to feature these
things. It also is in that tricky comedy-drama category, but
unfortunately, many of the film's lines fell flat and the drama is
hurt mostly by Westfeldt's acting, which isn't very good. Films
that are written by their stars are always a little dicey;
Juergensen and Westfeldt are good friends and wrote this script
together, but I don't think they should have starred in the film.
This has worked for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in the past (BEFORE
they sold out), and lately, Owen Wilson has shown some success in
writing and starring in his films like
"The Royal Tenenbaums." But
here, more with Westfeldt than with Juergensen, you can feel her
acting theatrically, not acting naturally.
Throughout, though, I felt like women
(straight or not) would get a lot more out of this film than men
will. But, I am sure that women will be surprised with how
important Jessica and Helen make the sexual part of their
relationship out to be; almost as if the writers felt that we would
be bored watching the leads waltz
"Ghost World"-style through the
world and make fun of everyone, they instead go for the jugular and
stress how important getting laid is to Helen. So, we are made to
watch a five-minute sequence detailing how worried Jessica is about
"taking things slow" with Helen, and how they build up their tension
by inching slowly around the proverbial sexual basepath by kissing
one night, then necking the next, then fondling each other's
breasts, etc. This was so unfunny and boring that I thought I might
slit the wrists.
The film does have a couple of great scenes,
and they both feature Tovah Feldshun as Jessica's mother. She is
superb and has the film's best acting moment near the end of the
film; you'll know what I mean if you see it. More support from
Jessica's best friend from work, Joan (Jackie Hoffman), is good
too. Plus, the film does have some great outdoor shots of spots
around the Big Apple. But otherwise, "Kissing Jessica Stein" is,
just as Helen says mid-film, a big c---tease. It also doesn't help
that the laughs in this comedy are nearly nonexistent.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard