Kissing Jessica Stein

kissing-jessica-poster“Mother! I’m atoning!”

The Scoop: R 2001, directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Tovah Feldshuh, and Esther Wurmfeld

Tagline: When it comes to love, sometimes she just can’t think straight.

Summary Capsule: Gals cross the final frontier of dating — that’s right, they get married to their computers!

DnaError’s Rating: The only movie with girl-on-girl action you take a date to see.

DnaError’s Review: I often wonder why fantasy and sci-fi movies get criticized for being unrealistic when romantic comedies are often much less connected with reality then your average alien-takeover flick. Romantic comedies exist in an ethereal Movieland, where the normal rules that govern human relationships and personalities don’t exist. Where all the women are pretty and rich, and all the guys are goofy and likable, and anything in the way of Truw Wuv can be solved with a musical montage.

Luckily, every once in a while, a romantic comedy with its feet firmly on the ground comes around. A movie like Kissing Jessica Stein. Poor fussy Jessica, her hectic life as a copy editor has made it impossible for her to find love. Sitting alone in her crappy apartment, she suffers a fate worse then death, being labeled “too picky.” Halfway across town, bohemian Helen Cooper is getting bored with sex, and wonders if she’s ready to take the plunge into the wide world of women.

The movie’s witty, neurotic comedy, and jazzy soundtrack place in Early Woody Allen land, just to the left of Annie Hall. It shares a lot in common in Annie Hall actually, except that its about two girls in a relationship. Well, they don’t really have a “relationship,” well one does but the other doesn’t… and everyone else doesn’t have a clue. This confused sexual politic makes Kissing Jessica Stein stand out. The movie acknowledges the weird fluid dynamics of attraction and sexuality, how it exists on a mental and physical levels, and that they are often at odds.

Of course, that’s just the text, the subtext is even richer. Its not about sex or attraction or lesbianism. It’s about words. The power of words and text to confound, to annoy, to entice and to convince. Jessica’s newspaper officemates question and cross-check the meanings of adjectives. She is lured in by the power of an obscure quote. Her date’s constant verbal missteps fill her with anger, and all the character’s apartments are spilling over with piles and stacks of books. And ultimately, its all those pretty words that get in the way.

Smart, charming, and playing out like the wittiest episode of Sex in the City ever made, Kissing Jessica Stein is a perfect date movie, no matter what their gender may be.

Justin’s Rating: But, I’ve already gone through my seven! What’s left for me?

Justin’s Review: You know what I’d like to see? Someone make a movie about the singletons of the world arising to fight back against the horrid peer pressure that couples foist upon them. I want to see the ugly, the weird, the geeky, the nerdy, the shy, the silent, the lonely, the fat, the thin, the pimply, and the 90 year-old lady in the apartment building next to me who has the most horrifying plant growing out of her balcony get together to all organize, and suddenly unleash a massive revolution on the world. Couples wouldn’t be expecting it. Couples would be all content in their snuggleness and their pillow talk and their endless non-sensical discussions on what movie to see that night. Oh yes, they wouldn’t be ready. Ready for the intercontinental missiles and secret tiger traps. Heh. That would be a fun movie.

But until that movie comes out, we’ll stick with Jewish lesbian romance comedies, aka Kissing Jessica Stein. Jessica is a lonely singleton who is a closet artist; but then, every single girl in film are always some sort of secret genius artist, so she’s just one of many. Having a hard time finding the right guy, she turns to personals… which leads her to a girl named Helen.

Helen’s a slightly more secure girl who is “trying” out her bisexual side (and she comes complete with the standard Gay Guy Sidekick, actually, two of them); so is Jessica. Helen’s attracted to Jessica, possibly because during certain facial gestures, Jessica looks a heckuva lot like Jennifer Aniston. Jessica is attracted to Helen, because Helen’s got a .45 in her purse, and she knows how to use it. Well, maybe not, but Helen does strike me as a forceful person who wouldn’t think twice of a little firepower aiding a dating experience.

Kissing Jessica Stein is a snarky little romp, but it rarely rises above the standards set out by every romantic comedy leading back to Cary Grant and the Pirates of the Carribean. Even with the added lemon-lime twist of lesbian-Jewishness, there’s still the dating montage, still the Romantic Misunderstanding, and still the love triangle complication. Doorman, take us up to the seventeenth floor of ecstasy, thank you. Doorman, plunge us down to the sub-basement of romantic despair, thank you. Doorman, can’t you do anything about this annoying elevator music?

Still, I am an honest guy, and I can’t withhold my compliments to a few elements of KJS that shine. The soundtrack, for one, isn’t just there for ambiance; at several points in the film it interacts with the scene in progress, usually in a funny and creative way. The girls do take their relationship out of Cliché Town to give us clever moments where the whole romance feels more real than movie romances usually do. Perhaps it’s the slight awkwardness that comes and goes, or the congratulatory high-five after a particularly successful kiss. Whatever, it’s a good movie to see when your girlfriend’s left you for another woman; tear open those raw wounds, mister!


“Have you ever thought about
the Church of Latter-Day Saints?”


  • Many “extras” in the film were people who just happened to be walking by the cameras during filming in New York City.
  • The film is based on a play called “Lipschtick”, the original title of the film was “Seeking Same.”
  • Some background shots were removed from the film prior to its release because they showed the World Trade Center.
  • Heh.. the title music ends as she leaves her apartment… then re-starts back up when she comes back in
  • She’s got a few books in her apartment… sheesh!
  • Girls who use lots of big words don’t like guys who misspeak big words
  • I should get a purse to dump on the ground in order to pick up women
  • Way to get clinical and research lesbianism!
  • Helen goes for the old yawn-and-stretch
  • The girls high-fiving after a kiss

Groovy Quotes

Jessica’s Mom: Lookit that one over there..
Jessica: Mother! I’m atoning!

Helen: All I wanted was some action and I get stuck with the Jewish Sandra Dee.

Jessica: (about some Hari Kristnas): Lookit them! They have no career goals!

Jessica: Will you shut up? I’m atoning!

Guy: Normally I’m a pretty self-defecating guy.

Jock: Let me tell you something: you’re phat. With a PH!

Guy: I’d like to represent you as your accountant and boyfriend, if that’s at all possible.

Jessica: [about lipstick] I’m looking for that perfect one…
Helen: Trust me, you’ll never find it. Blend.

Helen: I like sexy ugly.

Jessica: I was surprised to learn that lesbians accessorize. I didn’t know that.

Jessica: [about to kiss] Is this with tongue?
Helen: I think we’ll play it by ear.

Bar guy 1: Two women together is…
Bar guy 2: It’s double-sexy!

Jessica: I don’t believe there is just one person. I believe there’s… seven.

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