×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kissing Jessica Stein

"Kissing Jessica Stein" is pure pleasure. A fresh take on sex and the single girl, this buoyant, well-crafted romantic comedy blends pitch-perfect performances with deliciously smart writing by actor-scribes Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.

With:
Jessica Stein - Jennifer Westfeldt Helen Cooper - Heather Juergensen Josh Meyers - Scott Cohen Judy Stein - Tovah Feldshuh Joan - Jackie Hoffman Martin - Michael Mastro Sebastian - Carson Elrod Dan Stein - David Aaron Baker

“Kissing Jessica Stein” is pure pleasure. A fresh take on sex and the single girl, this buoyant, well-crafted romantic comedy blends pitch-perfect performances with deliciously smart writing by actor-scribes Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen. Previously in development at Gramercy (the filmmakers reacquired rights when it seemed their project might atrophy in turnaround), pic has above-average commercial potential for an indie production and would be a feather in the cap of a distributor with the savvy to adroitly position it for a young femme — and potentially broader “Bridget Jones” — audience.

Title character, played by Westfeldt, is a sort of Jewish Ally McBeal who works in a publishing house alongside her garrulous, pregnant friend, Joan (Jackie Hoffman), and smug ex-b.f., Josh (Scott Cohen). Frustrated at her inability to find love, Jessica embarks on a series of disastrous first dates, effectively presented in an amusing montage. It’s only when she reads a personal ad quoting Rilke that Jessica’s interest is piqued, but there’s only one problem: The ad was placed by a woman.

Though she’s resolutely straight, Jessica decides to meet the ad’s author, a free-spirited art gallery manager named Helen (Juergensen). To her surprise and chagrin, the sheltered Jessica is quite taken with Helen. Finding they have much in common — including their heterosexual track records — Jessica and Helen strike up a warm and quirky courtship. As Jessica finds herself falling for Helen, she’s forced to confront her own insecurities, her friends’ preconceived notions, and the apprehensions of her overprotective mother (Tovah Feldshuh).

It all comes to a head at her brother’s wedding, where she must decide whether she’s strong enough to admit their bond publicly. It’s giving nothing away to say that one member of the duo decides she is not a lesbian, a denouement handled with gentle grace and ample humor.

Credible, sympathetic perfs are key to the film’s appeal. Having spent many months exploring Helen and Jessica’s relationship in their stage play “Lipschtick,” Juergensen and Westfeldt know their characters intimately. Their resulting onscreen dynamic, ably guided by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld’s breezy direction, feels entirely naturalistic.

Supporting turns are also first-rate. Feldshuh gives an achingly poignant and multilayered performance as Judy Stein, a woman who is much more perceptive than she appears. And Hoffman gives a terrifically funny interpretation of Jessica’s meddling but well-meaning friend, staying just the right side of caricature.

Tech aspects are tops, notably the editing by Kristy Jacobs Maslin and Gregory Tillman, which helps propel the movie like a fast-moving train. Only fault, and it’s hardly that, lies in the few instances where the laughs come too close together to be digested fully.

Kissing Jessica Stein

Production: An Eden Wurmfeld Films and Brad Zions Films production, in association with Cineric and Michael Alden Prods. Produced by Eden Wurmfeld, Brad Zions. Co-producers, Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfelt. Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. Screenplay, Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfelt, based on their play "Lipschtick."

Crew: Camera (Duart color), Lawrence Sher; editors, Kristy Jacobs Maslin, Gregory Tillman; music, Marcelo Zarvos. music supervisors, Matthew Abbott, Jim Black; production designer, Charlotte Bourke; art director, Tema Levine; costume designer, Melissa Bruning; sound (Dolby), Theresa Radka; associate producers, Eduardo Braniff, Steven Firestone, Doug Liman, Mark Pincus, Kaye Popofsky; assistant director, Jeff Huston; casting, Susie Farris. Reviewed at L.A. Film Festival, April 26, 2001. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: Jessica Stein - Jennifer Westfeldt Helen Cooper - Heather Juergensen Josh Meyers - Scott Cohen Judy Stein - Tovah Feldshuh Joan - Jackie Hoffman Martin - Michael Mastro Sebastian - Carson Elrod Dan Stein - David Aaron Baker

More Film

  • Zach Galifianakis Jerry Seinfeld Netflix

    Film News Roundup: Zach Galifianakis' 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie' Coming to Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is unveiled, “Friedkin Uncut” gets a fall release and Sony Classics buys “The Traitor” at Cannes. MOVIE RELEASES Netflix has set a Sept. 20 release date for Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” based on his 11-year-old talk show. Galifianakis made the announcement during [...]

  • Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for

    Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for North America

    Magnolia Pictures has bought North American rights to the Romanian crime thriller “The Whistlers” following its premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, the film stars Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szonyi and George Pisterneanu. Magnolia is eyeing a theatrical [...]

  • Naomi Scott Talks Rebooting Princess Jasmine

    'Aladdin': Naomi Scott on Why Her Princess Jasmine Needed Nasim Pedrad's New Character

    Call Naomi Scott the queen of the reboot – or at least, the princess. The 26-year-old actress is taking on the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but it’s not her first time jumping into a role that’s already been well-established. Audiences may recognize Scott from 2017’s “Power Rangers” update, where [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • A QUIET PLACE Emily Blunt

    'A Quiet Place' Sequel Moves Ahead Two Months to March 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved its sequel to “A Quiet Place” ahead by two months from May 15 to March 20, 2020. John Krasinski is returning to direct the still-untitled movie with Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprising their roles. Cillian Murphy is joining the cast. “A Quiet Place” grossed $340 million at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content