A friend of ours invited Nina and I to see Kissing Jessica Stein today. What a fun movie–with the feeling of a hip Gen-X Annie Hall, the sort of film Woody Allen used to make in the 1970s before he went through his early 1980s Bergman phase, his early 1990s Antonioni phase, and his mid-1990s “comedic hooker” (Mighty Aphrodite, Deconstructing Harry, etc.) phase. Given the effortless feel of the movie, I was surprised to see this was only the second film its director has helmed, and that the two leads, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen wrote the screenplay, and this was one of their first writing efforts.
Early on while watching the film, as the story was being set-up, I kept contrasting it to “You’ve Got Mail”, perhaps because “Mail” was the last New York romantic comedy I’ve seen, and I literally fell asleep watching it, due to “Mail’s” distinct lack of energy, flat direction and boring characters. (There’s something about Nora Ephron movies that just doesn’t work for me. My wife liked “You’ve Got Mail”. She loved “Michael”. She may have liked “Sleepless in Seattle”. They’ve all grossed boxcars worth of money. They’ve all worked faster than Sominex to put me out like a light.) In contrast, “Kissing Jessica Stein” crackled with energy, and was filled with characters that were both identifiable, likable, and funny.
Given the nature of the film, (cute, neurotic 20-something heterosexual Jewish girl fails in relationship after relationship until she meets an equally hetero, but more aggressively sexual girl who is talked into placing an ad in the lesbian personals section of The Village Voice by her gay friend) I was curious as to what a publication like National Review would think of the film. Michael Potemra loved it:
Kissing Jessica Stein works very well as a movie because it’s not about a canned message; it’s about realized, well-acted characters in a well-written story. Westfeldt and Juergensen wrote the script themselves, and deserve much credit for bringing this provocative, entertaining film to the screen. About sex, we have enough