One You Might've Missed #04: Kissing Jessica Stein
Finding diamonds in the rough is a wonderful feeling, but in order to do so, you usually have to watch a lot of bad movies. Flix66.com takes the pain away by recommending a movie that you may have never heard of, or missed when it first came out.
Woody Allen wrote and starred in two great movies about relationships in New York City with ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN. However, in the years when he was making SMALL TIME CROOKS and THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION, it was easy to forget about that past greatness. Well, in that absence emerged Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen with an adaptation from their off-Broadway play “Lipschtick.” KISSING JESSICA STEIN is about the quintessential neurotic Woody Allen character, this time as the gorgeous Westfeldt as Jessica Stein, trying to find love in New York City with a revolving door of blind dates with hilariously inept men (keep your eye out for Hollywood Squares favorite Jim J. Bullock). Heather Juergensen plays Helen Cooper, the polar opposite to Jessica, who has no problem getting men, but uses a collection of them to fill her different needs; one for sex, one for money, one for intellect, etc.
Jessica answers Helen’s ad in personal ad, and they hit it off, and then Jessica goes through the “Jew from Scarsdale” transformation to lesbian as if it was something you can practice; she even gets pamphlets for helpful hints. Jessica’s neuroses are hilarious to the viewer, but noticeably frustrating to Helen, who’s a little beyond that point in her life.
Supporting roles by Carson Elrod and Michael Mastro as the “Will and Grace”-style funny gay counsel for Helen and a great turn by Tovah Feldshuh as the stereotypical “meet a nice Jewish boy”-Jewish mother make this a good ensemble but the best reason to watch and rewatch this movie is for Jennifer Westfeldt. She’s nervous, she’s sexy, she’s smart, she’s opinionated, she’s all over the place and in a very good way. A great deleted scene of her on a boat at the Bethesda fountain reservoir with a disastrous suitor in which she goes off on a rant about life and love and fear and fortitude and shoes that takes her everywhere from vulnerable to confident to mean to heartbreaking all the way to Gary Busey-crazy.
Bottom line for KISSING JESSICA STEIN: If you like ANNIE HALL, you’ll like this movie. If you don’t like ANNIE HALL… check your pulse.
Foot Notes: KISSING JESSICA STEIN shot some of its scenes in New York without blocking off the set, so some bystanders can be seen in the shots blatantly looking right at the camera as if to say, “Hey Ma, their shootin’ one of them there movin’ pictures.” Also, they had two showings at the Toronto Film Festival; one on September 10th, 2001, and another on September 12th. They had scenes with the World Trade Center in them which drew noticeable reactions from the crowd on the second viewing. They were later cut.