New York journalist Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt) is about to give up on her search for Mr Right when a personal ad featuring a quote from Rilke catches her eye. Jessica replies to the ad and is surprised to discover that it was placed by a woman, Helen Cooper (Heather Juergensen). The pair meet, get on well, and their first date ends with a kiss; in no time at all they are confirmed soul-mates, but where the relationship goes from here is anybody's guess.
Kissing Jessica Stein
is not a conventional single-girl rom-com. Woody Allen taught us that singletons are neurotic, Sex & the City
showed us their sass, Bridget Jones
brought out their vulnerable side, and together they wrote the textbook of movie singledom. While Kissing Jessica Stein
is clearly in on these conventions, its heroine takes an entirely different path to spice up her personal life. Impulsively answering a personal ad from another woman, Jessica Stein embarks on a tentative relationship with gallery owner Helen. But the couple have crossed purposes--Helen being more overtly sexual--leading Jessica to decide whether her ersatz sexual identity is the real thing, or if it's the companionship she's after.
Wordy and witty, it's easy to spot the film's stage origins, but also easy to attribute this level of intelligence and humour to the two charming leading ladies, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen. Similarly, while Jessica is almost certainly not gay, the on-screen spark between the two women is enough to justify their relationship. Kissing Jessica Stein asserts that sexual experimentation needn't lead to a massive personal revelation, nor pigeonholing oneself. At the film's heart is peoples' need to find intimacy, a sensitive subject that's treated with humour and gentle irony. This is one date that'll leave you smiling.
On the DVD: Kissing Jessica Stein has two commentaries offering two entirely different perspectives. Director Charles Herman-Wurmfield and cinematographer Lawrence Sher provide an interesting if a little perfunctory look at how this low-budget feature was put together with the help of friends appearing as extras and loaning their apartments. Meanwhile producer/screenwriter/costars Westfeldt and Juergensen are chatty and light-hearted and clearly still excited at their film, a feeling that also pervades their documentary. Deleted scenes and outtakes come with or without commentary, and a trailer rounds off the package. --Laura Bushell