review for Kissing Jessica Stein on AllMovie

Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)
by Michael Hastings review

If ever an independent comedy succeeded on the breakthrough performances of its leads, Kissing Jessica Stein is it. Following the handbook for urban lesbian romantic comedy to a tee -- right down to the sassy gay pals who populate the sidelines -- co-writers and co-stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen don't score any points for originality. But their familiarity with the material (the script started life as a play) allows them to fully inhabit their characters' neuroses, with often hilarious results. Westfeldt in particular conveys a halting charm that brings to mind Lisa Kudrow; she's even able to breathe new life and truth into what could have been a very trite coming-out scene. The film's Achilles heel is a sour, Chasing Amy-style ending: the sexual turnaround the characters make in the film's coda should take an hour -- not a few minutes -- of screen time if it is to be believed. After a crowd-pleasing debut at the 2001 Los Angeles Film Festival and a similarly successful berth at the Toronto Film Festival, Kissing Jessica Stein secured a Fox Searchlight release in 2002.