KISSING JESSICA STEIN
Review by Michael Jacobson
Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen, Jackie Hoffman,
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: September 17, 2002
on, come on, you’re a terrible liar.”
me. There’s NO GUY.”
always feels good to laugh, and I laughed harder, louder and more often during Kissing
Jessica Stein than just about any film in recent memory.
The fact that I happened to love, care for and be emotionally involved in
the characters as well was a pleasant unexpected bonus.
film was co-written and co-produced by its two leading stars, Jennifer Westfeldt
and Heather Juergensen, and if there’s any justice, they’ll score an Oscar
nomination for their screenplay, which is one of the funniest and most
insightful since When Harry Met Sally. You
could compare them to Woody Allen, but their film never gets too smart for its
own good, and manages to win our empathy for a neurotic central character
instead of inspiring annoyance.
character is the Jessica Stein of the title (Westfeldt), an attractive single
woman whose penchant for perfectionism has been a perpetual snag in her ability
to form relationships from day one. At
a friendly dinner one night, her boss (Cohen) calls her out for what she is,
which might have partially inspired her next move.
to a quote in a newspaper personal column, Jessica finds herself face to face
with Helen (Juergensen). Neither
have had experience in a same sex relationship before. For the vivacious Helen, it’s simply a matter of setting
her sights on what she wants and going after it.
For the unstable Jessica, things are a little more complex…a “Jewish
Sandra Dee”, as a frustrated Helen eloquently states it.
“experimental” relationship works for the audience on many levels.
Yes, it’s sexy, but also romantic, and terribly funny.
Jessica’s first night involves a rather bookish approach to the event
that has to be seen to be believed.
ultimately, it works because our hearts go out to both of these women.
Each one is likable in her own way, and we can’t help but want to see
something good come out of their involvement.
But the film’s biggest strength is that it doesn’t make outside
scoffs and stares the stumbling block to their happiness…as with most
relationships, it’s what they each bring that might cause the trouble.
Westfeldt and Juergensen are radiant in their roles, investing their characters
not only with their performance, but with the words they scripted for them as
well. Some of the lines that made
me laugh the hardest are ones I can’t reprint here; suffice to say, you’ll
recognize some of them when you hear them.
so rare to find a romantic comedy that IS actually romantic and comic, while at
the same time, smart and truthful, and doesn’t treat its audience like lower
order intellectuals. Kissing
Jessica Stein is a sweet natured, breezy, entertaining breath of fresh air
that tickles the funny bone, touches the heart, and stimulates the mind all at
the same time.
is a mostly good anamorphic offering from Fox…no real complaints, but the film
was obviously shot for a lower than average budget, and sometimes that comes
across in the overall look. Colors
are what they are; natural looking but not overly expressive as they might be
with a bigger art direction budget. Images
are well detailed, but sometimes a little softer than normal in different kinds
of light. There is no grain,
break-up or other artifacts of compression, and the overall presentation
certainly conveys the subject matter nicely.
mostly a dialogue oriented film, the 5.1 soundtrack is more than serviceable for
the added music touches that give it dynamic range and open up the surround
environment a little more. Spoken
words are clear throughout, and no noise interferes with audio.
disc boasts not one but two commentary tracks.
Both are informative and pleasant listens, but I think most will go right
to the one with Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen right away.
They have a lot to say about the development of the project, the filming,
and the people they worked with, and their casual manner and sometimes humorous
delivery make for an enjoyable, friendly chat session.
The other track features director Charles Herman-Wurfield and his DP
disc also contains an 8 minute featurette with its two leading ladies, an
original trailer, and a collection of 9 deleted/alternate scenes with outtakes,
featuring optional commentary by Ms. Westfeldt and Ms. Juergensen.