Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kissing Jessica Stein: Movie Review


"Kissing Jessica Stein" is the best kind of romantic comedy.

At the beginning of "Kissing Jessica Stein" we meet Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) sitting in synagogue between her mother and grandmother discussing the lack of Jessica's love life. Jessica interrupts and says "Shut up mother, I'm atoning." This sums up and sets the tone for the greatness of this film - Jessica is authentic and very funny. 2001

Directed by: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld

Screenplay by: Heather Juergensen, Jessica Westfeldt

Starring: Jessica Westfeldt

I connected instantly with Jessica as I am sure many single or recently single women will be able to (and it should be noted that I’m not Jewish – there is cultural humour but the film is very universal). I usually hate making film comparisons to Woody Allen because a) it's being done way too often and b) it's just not Woody Allen who is still making great films for us. But in this case, part of my connection to Jessica is that writer and star Jennifer Westfeldt, like me, has probably seen "Annie Hall" one hundred times, and a great deal of Diane Keaton's Annie shines through in Jessica.

"Kissing Jessica Stein" is a romantic comedy about a girl who basically just doesn't know what she wants, but it's better than that statement. The film is very well written and very funny.

The relationships explored are real and three-dimensional and every element that moves the story forward is done with subtlety and humour. There is one mistake in the writing, and the writers make it obvious that they are writers, but it doesn't matter because the film is just that good (for instance, who else would have a conversation about using marinate as a verb in two different meanings? But at the same time, it’s a very memorable and witty conversation). When they start getting too far from the audience with a character philosophizing about his current stance in life, they pull us right back in with a great line "You got dark."

It also helps that Westfeldt is married to Jon Hamm and is friends with some of the best comedians in the business. Hamm himself appears as a potential suitor, Scott Cohen as another potential suitor, Tovah Feldshuh shines as Jessica’s concerned mother, and Jackie Hoffman pipes in with some funny suggestions as Jessica’s friend.

You may have noticed that I failed to mention that Kissing Jessica Stein is a bi-sexual romantic comedy, but that’s not what makes it great, that is just one great aspect that helps make it original.

After you finish watching "Kissing Jessica Stein" (which, believe me, you have to), find Westfeldt's next foray into her version of romantic comedies "Ira and Abby" (2006). Oh, and if for some reason you haven't yet, see Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" (1977) first.


Friends with Kids (2011) - Authenticity and maturity to a dramatic romantic comedy.