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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 4 Deleted scenes
  • 4 Teaser trailer
Kissing Jessica Stein (Rental)
Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If you’re a single woman with a career who happens to be in your late 20s or early 30s, you quite possibly know all too well what it’s like. About all that’s left on offer is a procession of losers – if you’re even that lucky – ranging from the scarcely literate to the last to know they should be coming out to the so anally retentive they’re like a human diamond factory – except, in the case of the latter, you don’t score the best friends – nor would you want the associated baggage.

Jessica Stein (Jennifer Westfeldt, from TV's Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place) knows the story only too well. A New York journalist, she’s single and unable to ignore the fact, thanks in the most part to her rather nagging Jewish mother and the small matter of her former college boyfriend now being her editor. The fact that she’s also a mousy, yet opinionated, judgemental and neurotic stress-ball probably also doesn’t help her case much. Still, we all need a touch of intimacy in our lives – that special feeling of knowing somebody finds us desirable and craves our company – but what to do when it all just seems so hopeless?

“What do you do to be happy?”
“Nothing, I’m not.”

Well, one day a personal ad read out by one of her work colleagues catches Jessica’s ear – by quoting her favourite poet, Rilke. There’s just this one little thing, however, the ad is from the ‘women seeking women’ section. In an eventual fit of uncustomary, caution to the wind bravado Jessica follows things up and arranges to meet with Helen (Heather Juergensen), a free-spirited, remarkably open-minded soul who is pretty much the anti-Jessica. They meet, Ms Stein completely wigs, Helen battles on, they have just one drink... then dinner... a touch of awkwardness... a certain sense of elation... shared lipstick and shoe experiences... then three months later it’s Shabbas dinners at Jessica’s parents’ house. Ah, but Jessica’s problems dealing with the fact that she’s in a lesbian relationship – and the fact that she’s loathe to tell a soul, let alone her family - starts to take its toll. Factor in a brother’s wedding and the lack of an invite for Helen, who seems justified in her fears she’s dating the Jewish Sandra Dee, and the two girls’ relationship is truly put to the test...

When you think about it, it is amazing how far we have come in the past ten years or so – after all, who could have conceived even in the early ‘90s that we could pop down to the local video library and pick up what is essentially a light-hearted romantic comedy that’s based around a “love that dare not speak its name”? That’s right, there are no pretensions at art or some sort of great super-worthiness here; it’s purely a sweet love-match romp that plays for the odd laugh – except that the couple in focus just happens to consist of two females. Mercifully, too, there are none of the ridiculous stereotypes of blue singlets, Birkenstocks, cropped hair and k.d. lang CDs to lessen proceedings.

The two leads display a great chemistry – it isn’t too surprising to discover that together they created the script – and it is this certain zing between them which gives Kissing Jessica Stein much of its charm. Delightful, often refreshingly real performances, coupled with the juxtaposition of themes familiar to most of us into a slightly less conventional sphere all work well, basically until it’s all popped somewhat by a rather (sadly) predictable denouement. Oh well, little steps...

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

Considering the film’s low budget roots, the 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 transfer we’re served up is quite passable. There are a number of specks scattered hither and thither, though they’re never overly intrusive; detail is reasonable, although often marred by haloing effects which scream “edge enhancement” louder than Topol at a punk gig (OK, that’s a shocking analogy – but it’s something we’d definitely like to see!) The colour is all quite New York – subdued and appropriate enough for what it needs to do, and the many darker scenes exhibit decent enough detail so as not to have us screaming “what, what, what?” at the screen over and over again.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix afforded Kissing... doesn’t get a lot to do, with the talky nature of proceedings keeping things pretty firmly in the realm of the front three speakers. Despite being quite rapid-fire at times the dialogue is easily discernible and also well synched. The only real occasions where the rears and subwoofwoof get much of a look in are when the soundtrack bursts into life. The score is from Marcelo Zarvos, and it’s pleasantly New York enough (well, it should be an adjective by now – “a lightly jazzy style redolent of the films of Woody Allen”), plus there’s the odd tune from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and even the human subwoofwoof himself, Mr Barry White.

Whilst the full retail release available overseas is stacked with two commentaries, a documentary, a trailer and ten deleted scenes, it will probably come as no surprise for anybody to learn that this just doesn’t have them – as seems to be the case more and more with rental discs. Still, we do get four of the deleted scenes - clocking in at almost 13 minutes there’s some funny extra bad dates footage, a rather boring boat scene which continues the loser-magnet theme, extended balcony banter with Josh and another one which if even named will let loose a considerably spoily spoiler. There are also four trailers on start-up (mercifully they’re skippable), for High Crimes, the total head bonk that is Waking Life, Dinner Rush and one of the most sublimely brilliant films of 2002, 24 Hour Party People.

While some lesser minds may be bitterly disappointed at missed opportunities for some “hot lesbo action” (a little tip - seek thee professional help if you fall within that category), anybody who likes a touch of romantic comedy and isn’t too prudish to cope with a sweet tale of two people who care deeply about each other – even if they are of the same sex – should find much to please in Kissing Jessica Stein. And there’s the added bonus of there not being a single Meg Ryan in sight. Ooh, now there’s a thought...


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  •   And I quote...
    "...a sweet love-match romp that plays for the odd laugh – except that the couple in focus just happens to consist of two females."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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