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.
by Michael Hastings review