Kissing Jessica Stein (15)

Review by Jack Foley

THE complexities of the dating game are given an alternative spin in this witty, intelligent and very well observed comedy from first-time writers (and stars) Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.

Kissing Jessica Stein takes a look at what happens when a ditzy New York journalist (Westfeldt), frustrated by the lack of suitable male suitors, ventures into lesbian territory with Juergensen’s adventurous, and also previously straight, art dealer.

The resulting girl-on-girl double act is both refreshingly honest, typically awkward and prone to mishap as, having found the happiness she craves, Westfeldt must wrestle with the ‘coming out’ phase which threatens to undermine her credibility with both a marriage-obsessed Jewish family and some chronically bitchy work colleagues, including an ex-love who still sports a crush.

Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, Kissing Jessica Stein draws much of its inspiration from the likes of Friends, Sex & The City, Bridget Jones and, of course, Woody Allen, but seldom feels laboured or too cliched.

Making the most of its plush New York settings, this bittersweet rom-com with a gender twist manages to be both romantic and, above all, funny, while also dropping in a few neat twists designed to keep viewers on their toes.

Both Westfeldt and Juergensen - who have done something of a Matt Damon/Ben Affleck in bringing their project to the screen - make appealing leads; even though the kookiness of Westfeldt’s character may irritate some.

There is solid support, too, from the likes of Scott Cohen, as Westfeldt’s tyrannical boss and former love interest, while Toyah Feldshuh manages to rise above the stereotypical confines of the meddlesome mother syndrome to turn in a performance that is both warm and endearing.

Some may find the script a little too sharp and knowing for its own good, while others may tire of the gender spin, but most will probably delight in the familiarity of its sequences, such as the amusing ‘first-date’ montage which provides the catalyst for Westfeldt’s lesbian leanings, or the big family meal which is loaded with hidden agendas and secrets.

In short, this is a date movie with a difference which is seldom found wanting.

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