Kissing Jessica Stein

Movie Review by Annabel Bayross

Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen, Jackie Hoffman, Michael Mastro
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld

Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt decided to write a play about two straight women venturing into the ‘unknown’ sphere of a lesbian relationship. This idea became such an interesting concept to them, that in turn, the film KISSING JESSICA STEIN was created.

Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt), a sweet but neurotic Jewish New York journalist is having problems with her life. A string of unsuccessful dates leaves her feeling unsatisfied and disgruntled with men. Not to mention her best friend’s pregnancy, her brother’s recent engagement and her boss, Josh (Scott Cohen) whom she had dated years ago, treating her with indifference in the office.

After yet another disastrous date, Jessica stumbles across an ad in the lonely heart’s column, which states a quote from a book she herself had been reading, only the night before. Her instant intrigue is quashed when she realises that the ad is in the ‘women seeking women’ section. But curiosity gets the better of her and she decides to answer it. The woman that she tentatively goes to meet; Helen (Heather Juergensen) is a cool, lascivious girl who’s ‘bored’ with her current sex life and fancies a change. After the initial awkwardness, Jessica begins to relax and enjoy the company she’s in and as the night draws to a close she is rewarded with a sensual kiss that leaves her feeling flummoxed. When Helen asks Jessica to think about the possibility of them having a relationship she tells her to “let it marinade for a while” – something only a woman could advise. What ensues is a sensitive but amusing portrayal of two women finding their feet within a relationship that neither of them knows the ‘rules’ to. Jessica really struggles with the physical side to their relationship, whilst Heather grows impatient at her wariness, and despairingly refers to her as a ‘Jewish Sandra Dee.’

KISSING JESSICA STEIN is a comical spin on an all too familiar theme. It superficially explores the crossing of boundaries and the extension of female friendship The film does have its moments – Helen’s two gay friends seem to be there for comic value, as does Jessica’s incredibly stereotypical Jewish mother. But as romantic comedies go, the jokes are few and far between and the level of exploration is pretty restrained. What the film does offer however, is a light-hearted look at gender role swapping whilst at the same time highlighting just how common place these scenarios can be in contemporary female culture.

3 out of 6 stars

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