Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review- Kissing Jessica Stein- movie

Kissing Jessica Stein
2002 DVD

Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) is a single, straight, successful New York journalist who, like most of her female friends, has had a history of dating (male) creeps. But when she answers an intriguing personal ad from Helen (Heather Juergensen), Jessica finds herself intensely drawn to her. As Jessica explores this new side of her sexuality, the two begin a friendship that ultimately leads to romance.

Ok, I’m going to review this movie although I’m sure everyone’s seen it already, it being a so-called cult classic and all. I know I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on cable, but as the Mr. is not too keen on chick flicks and the clicker has become a permanent appendage to his hand, heh, I haven’t seen the whole movie. There are also a jabillion reviews for it at Amazon, so if you really have a burning desire to know all about it, you can glean through them.

I’m just going to talk about it from my perspective as a lover of bisexual and lesbian stories as a straight curious woman.

Jessica is fed up with the loser men she keeps getting set up with. The truth is, although they showed really loser guys to make a point in this film about how losery they are, she really is neurotic and picky. On a lark, she answers a personal ad in the paper from a woman who quoted something from a book she had just read that she took note of.

Helen, the one who put up the ad, is truly a bisexual woman. She has male lovers for each of her moods and she has experimented with women before, but has decided that she wants a meaningful relationship with a woman. A full on deal that doesn’t include the men anymore.

Helen and Jessica meet and it’s major awkward, especially for Jessica. In fact, she tries to leave before meeting. I can imagine how weird it is to meet someone from an ad for the first time, but add in the same sex factor when both aren’t lesbians and it would be even more awkward, I’d think.

Helen sticks it out with Jessica even though Jessica is taking the sexual aspect very sloooooowly. They start dating for real (having a full on sexual life) after a loooong while, but Jessica is keeping it all hidden, lying to her friends and family, embarrassed that she’s with a woman.

Things come to a head when Helen finds out that Jessica has not even shared the most basic of things about her life with her and she walks out. Jessica is devastated but comes around, deciding to work it out with Helen. However, she only does this after her meddling Jewish mom shows that she knows and accepts that Jess is with a woman. Personally, I don’t think she would have done that without the support of her mom or friends since she was so uptight about the whole gay thing for herself.

All the while, Josh, Jessica’s old friend, family friend and co-worker for years, has been pining over her while getting on her case and pointing out how messed up she is.

So…what I liked was how the women started to begin with. I could relate to both women. Answering an ad, experimenting with someone who is willing and open without expectations seems like an easy way to ease into something with a woman when you’ve never done that before. I mean if you put up and ad and someone answers, then there’s a high probability that the other is interested in being with a woman at any rate. Although Jessica started it on a whim, not really wanting to be with a woman, she does go through with it because she's had it with meeting men she can't get on board with.

With Helen, she finally meets someone who gets her and whom she can not be picky about.

Unfortunately, this story went the way of how I think it would go with a straight woman who is experimenting with a bi, lesbian or another curious straight woman. Their sexual and co-habitational relationship easily slipped into being “close” roommates with a lack of sex stemming from Jessica not being totally gung ho about it, but still wanting that close friendship.

This movie was light and funny and I think it approached the whole bisexual/curious thing in a good way, even if a bit stereotypical of a comedy. How nice that Jessica’s conventional Jewish family and best friend at work all think it’s kind of cool that she’s suddenly a lesbian. Reality? Not. But that’s part of the charm of this movie; it’s unrealistic, but possible.

While it stays in the realm of whatever floats your boat is OK, one gay friend of Helen gets pissed at her for co-opting gay sexuality just for experimentation when she has a choice to be straight. I can imagine that lesbians would get pissed as well with this movie. Although, it doesn’t get into any of the actual scocio/political aspects of being gay outside of Jessica's paranoia and denial.

This was the only part in which things got a bit serious because Helen feels she has to defend her desire to explore without being judged with her gay buds. And although Jessica’s friend thinks it’s so cool that she’s having an affair with a woman, she tells Jess that it would be better to end it since it will never work, because she actually gets along with this woman. Haha?

Another thing that also might piss off lesbians, which I can totally see, is that in the end, this is about Jessica taking a detour into bi-curious land on her way to finding her true love, a man. I would have been pissed myself at the usual “it’s OK to get with a chick for fun, but only until you meet the man who shows what it’s really all about.” However, Jessica was never portrayed as really being enthusiastic about her relationship with Helen. There was always a feeling that she would bolt at the slightest conflict. Yes, she loves Helen, but it’s clear there are hesitations all the time. So, it’s no big shock that she can’t handle the full on reality of it.

But ultimately, this is a cute, non-judgmental film about female (bi) sexuality that let’s face it, is pretty rare even with current trends of chicks with chicks being cool. It is kind of funny and Jessica and Helen are quirky enough characters to keep this rather non-serious. It is what it is I guess, an easy way to pass a couple of hours being entertained.

Heat level- 2- minor kissing.

Grade: B


Cathy in AK said...

I saw this one a while ago and agree with your take. I felt bad for Helen, as she was trying so hard to get Jessica to just relax and enjoy herself. Then to realize Jess hadn't really told *anyone* about their relationship? Was essentially hiding/in denial? Ouch!

And while it was a lighter comedy, I can understand if some lesbian or bi viewers get frustrated by the ending.

Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen are/were writing partners, but I can't find anything else they did together. That's too bad, because KJS was fun.

LVLM said...

I wish they would have just let those two women be a couple and built up some romance between them. But that's how it is mainstream.

And yeah, I couldn't understand why Helen kept sticking it out. But it's too her credit that she did.