Kissing Jessica Stein Blu-ray Review
Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt, who would make her directorial debut a decade later with FRIENDS WITH KIDS) is under pressure to be with a man. She’s twenty-eight, a number uncomfortably close to that dreaded thirty, and may be a busy copy editor in New York City, but her mother (Tovah Feldshuh, who won a Drama Desk Special Award in 1975 for her performance in YENTL) can’t help but point out a handsome man in a blue yarmulke. It doesn’t help that her brother recently got engaged.
And so triggers the series of blind dates: there’s a writer who she’ll no doubt need to correct non-stop (“I’m kind of a self-defecating guy”), a guy who orders the same drink as her and a dweeb in a bowtie and sweater vest who adds up every penny on the bill so he’s not paying for any item not on his plate. Jessica turns to the personals, where a women seeking women ad draws her attention. And considering the lack of quality in the men, it’s easy to understand why.
The woman is Helen Cooper (Heather Juergensen, 2003’s RED ROSES AND PETROL), a bisexual art gallery owner. The two go out for drinks and immediately hit it off, holding blah-blah-blah conversations that are meant to be enlightening on relationships, sexuality and the like.
The primary issues with KISSING JESSICA STEIN come from it feeling, like Jessica’s decision to try out for the other team, forced and self-important. This is a screenplay (by Westfeldt and Juergensen) that feels like it has so much to say, but in the end, is only skimming the surface of insight. And because it’s written by the women starring in the lead roles, it feels all the more self-congratulatory and like they only sat down at the computer to shout to the indie movie scene, “Look over here! Look what we did for lesbian cinema! Look how edgy we tried to be! Now, where are the Independent Spirit Awards?!”
There are moments that must have sparked curiosity (and perhaps minor controversy, considering the topic was a bit more taboo then compared to today), as when Jessica and Helen do their thing, and moments that could reflect how some sexually confused women feel, as when Jessica insists on hiding her new lover (“She’s a friend from the gym!”), but the whole effort seems so light just over than a decade later.
KISSING JESSICA STEIN, which is directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (who would go on to direct LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE & BLONDE), just isn’t the anthem Westfeldt and Juergensen want it to be or think it is. Nor is it charming, which is an element it often strives for. It is basic and predictable and we know from “Rilke” that this is not a relationship that will get much farther than a shared apartment.
KISSING JESSICA STEIN premiered at the 2001 Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won both the Audience Award for Best Feature Film and a Critics Special Jury Award.
KISSING JESSICA STEIN BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Fox’s high-definition transfer is a pretty weak one that offers a soft picture with few details.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0; French Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio is a bit better, although it doesn’t expand much past audible dialogue and a passable soundtrack.
Audio commentary by director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and cinematographer Lawrence Sher: Herman-Wurmfeld and Sher give a solid (if basic) track that goes into various aspects of the movie’s production.
Audio commentary by Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt: This is the commentary that fans of KISSING JESSICA STEIN will be more interested in, as it features the leads/screenwriters going into a wealth of production tidbits in a light, conversational manner.
Featurette (8:50): This piece sees Westfeldt and Juergensen revisiting the birthplace of KISSING JESSICA STEIN and touching on the plot and characters.
Deleted Scenes (24:50): There are 10 here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole, as well as with Juergensen and Westfeldt commentary. They are: “Bad Dates (Outtakes),” “Boat Scene,” “Junkyard Original Ending,” “Helen + Martin,” “The Wedding (Outtakes),” “DP Goes the Worm,” “Balcony Banter,” “The Other Kiss,” “Extra Scenes/Pre-Breakup” and “Grandma Esther (Outtakes).”