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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.77%
Worth A Look31.91%
Average: 27.66%
Pretty Bad: 6.38%
Total Crap: 21.28%

4 reviews, 23 user ratings

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Kissing Jessica Stein
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by Collin Souter

"The Incredibly True Adventures of Ally McEphron"
3 stars

“Kissing Jessica Stein” tells the story of two women conducting a series of experiments, all of them having to do with being a first-time lesbian. Their relationship can be defined with one word: Awkward. On the one hand, we have the titular Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt), a journalist, who can’t seem to find the right guy. On the other, we have Helen (Heather Juergensen), who flirts with the idea of being a lesbian. She puts a want-ad in the paper, which catches the eye of Jessica and in a reluctant turn of events, the two form a friendship. But they can’t seem to get beyond the first kiss, or the second, or the third. The experiment—my word, not theirs—has its results, none of them long-lasting.

In one of the movie’s funnier sequences, the two women attempt kissing, but the attempt goes on for every one of their dates. Every kiss they have resembles that first kiss you would remember having in high school. They almost never progress, and Jessica is most of the problem. She sort of resembles a cross between Lisa Kudrow and Ally McBeal: Smart, but frantic, a little paranoid, a tad ditzy and completely insecure. Helen feels more ready for this commitment and patiently awaits Jessica’s willingness to make the complete transition from straight to gay.

Meanwhile, a co-worker and former lover of Jessica’s, Josh (Scott Cohen), has yet to figure out Jessica’s new life. He still pines for her and we can see that eventually he will have his heart broken. Jessica’s mother also keeps trying to set Jessica up with losers, a habit she seems unwilling to break. Every time Jessica and Helen are seen together, Jessica feels compelled to make up a phony lie about why she doesn’t have a guy around. Jessica, no matter how hard she tries, can’t convince herself of this relationship, even after they move in together.

This movie is the latest indie sleeper hit (whatever that is) to break out of the arthouses and into the suburbs, but it too fails to get beyond the first kiss. It is a movie made up of cute moments, some nice heart-to-heart scenes and likable performances, but it never seems to want to get in bed with its audience. The movie throws us cliché after cliché, from the flamboyant gay couple who fight openly about their sexual habits to the Jewish mother always wondering when her daughter will get her act together. We even get a sequence near the beginning of the film showing Jessica on a series of dates with a series of typical losers. You basically feel as though you’re watching a best-of outtake reel of that Fox show I mentioned earlier.

“Kissing Jessica Stein” will likely entertain those who just want a harmless night out at the movies, but those wondering what all the fuss is about will likely be a bit disappointed. It’s certainly better than anything Edward Burns has ever done, but it doesn’t strive to be much of anything else. You’d be better off renting the smart and biting “Chasing Amy” or the Independent Film Channel hit “The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love.” This movie has its nice moments, but they’re just moments and we’ve had them before. And as we often do with these kinds of movies, we’re mostly sitting there thinking, “Nobody talks like this.”

My sister Allison has told me many times that she avoids movies where the main female character’s happiness depends on the love of a perfect heterosexual man. I see what she means, even though I enjoyed “Bridget Jones’ Diary” very much. I also have a problem with romantic comedies these days when they show a single person with a decent job, but who can afford New York apartments with spiral staircases without the need for a roommate. How about a movie about a confident woman who lives in a modest apartment and who finds happiness by helping others? (Woops, I just described “Amelie.” Leave it to the French.) Why should every romantic comedy be made for readers of Cosmo and Maxim? How about a romantic comedy for people who read Total MOVIE or Fangoria? (Whoops, I just described “Free Enterprise,” a funny American movie nobody saw)

How about we just take a hiatus on American romantic comedies until we can learn how to make them completely fresh and funny again? Just as an experiment.

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originally posted: 04/02/02 08:55:36
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User Comments

5/10/06 Indrid Cold I agree that the characters are fundamentally unappealing, but it's still sharp and funny. 4 stars
3/30/06 A.C. I think men who don't get women, dont' like (get) this movie. Its fantastic on every level. 5 stars
1/18/06 Deanna Sexual identity roulette as boredom cure. Insulting on all levels 1 stars
12/21/04 Bea delightfull,sharply written and good performances despite actress are "unknown" 4 stars
2/10/04 Josh Sharply written, very funny, the best rom-com in ages. 4 stars
12/21/03 Monster W. Kung A pathetic excuse for a movie that's as deep and thought-provoking as a porno film. 1 stars
8/01/03 LeoH Bright, funny romantic comedy. 4 stars
5/17/03 Plagarism is a curse Startlingly similar review to Dave Elliot of San Diego Union Tribune. Esp. para 8 3 stars
4/12/03 Dra_KW This one is a big effort to make a good movie: romantic, funny, spicy and 2 beautiful girls 5 stars
1/07/03 A normal average person An ordinary sitcom that plays the fashionable lesbian card and is insulting to men 2 stars
12/23/02 Jim Amusing, main character annoying but supporting ones interesting 4 stars
9/27/02 The Bomb 69 handled the whole ending correctly, dealt with real issues and was funny as well 4 stars
9/23/02 marco guerra guys,you are wrong again. good movies are different;did you even watch it? Soberly? 2 stars
9/19/02 YeahThat'sRightYouKnowWhatI'mTalkingAbout Boring. Uninteresting, and very droll, cardboard characters. Jim's right. This one sucks 1 stars
9/17/02 beryl firestone LOVED IT!!! 5 stars
5/13/02 Elsie Dee A fun little movie. Nothing deep or heavy, and better than romance-comedies tend to be. 4 stars
4/13/02 Suzz a genuinely funny romantic comedy 4 stars
4/10/02 IP Freely Isn't this just another Meg Ryan romantic comedy w/ a different star...boring 1 stars
4/07/02 Jessica Moorleghen transcends gender roles to reveal the true awkwardness of knowing someone intimately 4 stars
4/02/02 Otis Buckshot This is a wonderful movie, light, funny, emotional, & also very real in todays world 5 stars
3/31/02 KCobain This movie is the bomb. Funny and touching. 5 stars
3/26/02 Jake Yeah, well I have seen it and it kicks ass. 5 stars
3/19/02 autumn yeah whoa i havent seen it 2 stars
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  13-Mar-2002 (R)



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