Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)

CHARLES HERMAN-WURMFELD

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB.

USA, 2001.  Fox Searchlight Pictures, Brad Zions Films, Eden Wurmfeld Films, Cineric, Michael Alden Productions.  Screenplay by , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  Toronto International Film Festival 2001.  

Art gallery manager Helen () decides that she’s tired of the run-of-the-mill boyfriends she’s been seeing and puts out an ad to cross the last frontier of sexuality she has yet to experience: another woman. Jessica () sees the ad and decides that the person who wrote it (using her favourite Rilke quote) would be a person worth meeting. Their initial try at a relationship is a complete failure, but through trial and error they manage to forget all previous inhibitions and just go for it. Along the way, we’re treated to a complete insider’s view to their fascinating personalities, as well as meeting Jessica’s wacky family (lorded over in a terrific performance by ) while she is trying to integrate her new friend/lover (?) into her life. What’s so terrific about watching this relationship develop is how the expectations one brings seldom produce expected results: Helen is looking for a new sexual thrill and instead realizes a completely new aspect of her ability to love, while Jessica is just looking to escape her routine life and instead discovers the guts to be her true self without apologies to anyone. The terrific screenplay was written by the two leads (based on their play), while the direction by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld lapses into many unself-conscious, amateur-like moments that only add to its charm.

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