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Kissing Jessica Stein

Kissing Jessica Stein is either a clever romantic comedy about looking for love, or a bitchy male-bashing comedy about the inadequacies of men. But however you interpret the message of co-writers (and co-stars) Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen, Jessica is a mostly entertaining sit-com style story about a straight Jewish girl going gay. Westfeldt is Jessica Stein, a single, quirky, twentysomething intellectual who longs for love but finds fault with every eligible man she meets. It's when a personal ad for a woman seeking another woman catches her eye that Jessica decides to take a chance by agreeing to meet Helen, the writer of the ad. The two are immediately taken with each other and find they have much in common. Jessica, unsure how to deal with the sexual side of this new romance, takes a clinical approach to lesbian sex, and in the process she nearly drives Helen to distraction with her neurotic ways. But the budding friendship and the tenderness these opposites feel for each other becomes expressed in their patience with, and tolerance for, each other's idiosyncrasies. Jessica is a modern-day Annie Hall, with her nervous mannerisms, her offbeat attitude, and her wariness of the possibility of a healthy relationship. If you go the clever romantic comedy route, Kissing Jessica Stein is a funny and poignant girlfriend/buddy film that explores the difficulty of finding love and friendship while maintaining a sense of sense — not to mention a semblance of sanity. If what you see is a male-bashing sex comedy, you'll notice the stereotypical perfectionism of a woman who finds reasons to criticize the smallest things about every man she meets while doing little or no self-examination. Either way, the movie is a pleasant enough diversion. Fox's DVD release of Kissing Jessica Stein is presented with a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The disc is full of extras as well, including two audio commentaries — one with director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and cinematographer Lawrence Sher, and a second, much funnier commentary with Juergensen and Westfeldt. The two women talk about acting and writing and the process of taking their play and turning it into a movie. Also offered are nine deleted scenes that are better than the usual deleted-scenes fare. The short featurette is typical and not too insightful. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—Kerry Fall

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