HTF REVIEW: "Kissing Jessica Stein" (Highly Recommended) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Aug 22, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Kissing Jessica Stein

    Studio: Fox Searchlight
    Year: 2001
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 97 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

    When it comes to love, sometimes she
    just can't think straight.

    As a reviewer who receives a lot of interesting
    DVD product each week, it usually comes down to
    making a hard choice as to which titles you want
    to review and which you don't. At first glance,
    I was very skeptical about wanting to review
    Kissing Jessica Stein, as I immediately
    pawned it off as being a chick flick about chicks
    in love with each other. But something inside me
    told me to take a chance on this DVD...and you know
    what? You guessed it! I found this film to be
    delightfully unpredictable.
    Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) is a successful
    and single career woman in New York City. She
    works as a copy editor on a New York magazine
    alongside her chatty pregnant friend Joan
    (Jackie Hoffman) and ex-boyfriend Josh (Scott
    Cohen). And though this 28-year-old heroine
    describes herself as a Jewish Sandra Dee, her
    looks and mannerisms fall more in line with
    that of Annie Hall.
    Though Jessica is intelligent and beautiful,
    it seems that she has been set up on one disastrous
    date after another. All she is looking for is the
    perfect soul mate. Looking through the personals one
    day, her eye is drawn to a quote in a personal ad.
    Jessica is intrigued, until she sees the personal
    is in the Women Seeking Women section. Against
    her better judgement, she answers the ad and arranges
    a date with an art gallery owner named Helen (Heather
    Juergensen). Jessica's curiosity gets the better
    of her and before long she finds herself falling
    for the smart and funny art gallery manager, taking
    hesitant steps towards her first lesbian kiss.
    As both women hit it off, Jessica must decide
    whether to break the news of their relationship
    to her Mother and friends. Is Jessica really coming
    out for life as a lesbian or is she searching
    unfamiliar territory out of desperation for a
    friendship that includes intimacy?
    How is the transfer?
    A wonderful film like this is complimented with
    an equally wonderful transfer. What is so nice
    about watching this film is that it has such
    a warm, natural beauty to it. Within this warmness
    is sharp, detailed clarity with deep black levels
    and vivid coloring. Although flesh tones tend to
    run a little red, I was impressed with how red
    Helen's red shirt could get without ever becoming
    oversaturated. There is not a hint of film grain
    to be seen anywhere which is even a blessing for
    the beautiful night shots of New York City with
    all its neon colors that just stand out beautifully.
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is also impressive.
    The film's musical tracks range from jazz to hip-hop,
    and all of it comes across all 5 channels with
    stunning clarity and enough bass in the LFE channel
    to support it all. The rears do a terrific job of
    bringing the sounds of New York City into your
    living room -- especially from the rooftop of a
    Just a wonderful transfer!
    Special Features
    Fox has done their usual job of putting together
    a very nice supplemental package with this DVD
    that includes a clever live-action and animated
    menu sequence upon popping the disc in the drawer.
    There are two commentaries provided for
    playback during the film. The first is Director
    Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and Director of Photography
    Lawrence Sher. The second is with stars Jennifer
    Westfeldt and Heather Juergesnsen.
    I decided that the most fun I would have listening
    to a commentary would be with the one with
    two actresses. I could not have been more correct.
    The two women seem to be on a natural high about
    the long road it took (starting in 1997) from
    play to screen. The women endlessly talk and giggle
    throughout the film, pointing out everything from
    how crazy it was filming some of these scenes to
    particular camera techniques they used to how many
    of their relatives and friends appeared throughout.
    A very interesting story is told about how a song
    by Barry White was secured for the film which came
    totally unexpectedly to everyone. The women go
    on to talk about the music used in the film and
    why they chose it, or about the risks of filming
    at the Armory in Central Park. These are the
    types of cool stories these women tell so fluidly
    scene after scene. The energy of these women
    certainly make this one of the most delightful
    commentaries I have recently had the opportunity to
    listen to.
    A wonderful featurette, The Making of Kissing
    Jessica Stein brings us to New York City where
    Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen (who
    also wrote and produced the film) take us inside
    the ArcLight, where the film's story actually began,
    performed to audiences in this small theater. The
    two actresses take great pride in discussing their
    individual characters and the film's story (set
    amongst many film clips). As Jessica and Jennifer
    revisit some of the Manhattan locales used in
    the film, we learn how these writers sought to
    write a story about characters -- not something
    that takes on a gay or political agenda. The
    chemistry between the two actresses on stage was
    so perfect that they didn't want to give the film
    roles to anyone else but themselves.
    (length: approx 8.5 minutes)
    There are a total of 10 deleted scenes and
    outtakes that have made their way to this DVD.
    Some of these scenes include...
    * More bad dates featuring actors not seen in
    the original film. Many of these actors were
    originals from the stage play.
    * The worst date of them all comes on a boat
    ride featuring Jessica, who blows up at her date.
    * A extension of a scene with Helen talking to
    her friend Martin about her breakup, losing
    herself at a crucial point in her life.
    * An extension of the staircase scene between
    Helen and Joan. What was originally to be filmed
    as a simple kiss, turns into something more heated.
    Some really funny bloopers featuring the elderly
    Mother. These are a real hoot to watch!
    Please take the opportunity to watch the deleted
    scenes with the accompanying commentary by the
    two actresses. They give some wonderful insight
    into the scenes. As for the outtakes? Watch those
    without commentary first so you can just sit and
    Rounding up the supplements is the film's original
    theatrical trailer.
    English and Spanish subtitles are included.
    Final Thoughts
    What could easily have sunk to a mindless film
    about lesbian couples, Kissing Jessica Stein
    manages to keep its head high above the waters by
    presenting an intelligent film full of real character
    development. It almost plays like a Woody Allen
    film that so playfully explores its characters
    amongst Manhattan life.
    It's sort of difficult for me to recommend a purchase
    for a film that may be an acquired taste. Anyone
    looking for something a little different, a little
    sophisticated, and a totally charming date film should
    hurry to their local video store and give Kissing
    Jessica Stein a rent. I think it will surprise
    you, and perhaps, make you want to own a copy of
    your own.
    Highly Recommended!
    Release Date: September 17, 2002
  2. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

    Jul 1, 2000
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    Thanks for the very positive review Ron, after some of the praise this recieved in the Movies forum, this title will be a sight-unseen purchase for me.
  3. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

    Apr 29, 2000
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    I REALLY enjoyed this film in the cinema. Not sure how much longterm 'replay' value it has to me, but I'd love to see it agian at least once.
  4. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

    Jun 18, 2001
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    I'll be buying this sight-unseen. Good to see a small gem like this reviewed here. The big boys get enough attention, here and elsewhere.
  5. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

    Feb 22, 1999
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    This was a big hit with the audience at an advance screening I attended. I found the film really charming, and the more I reflected on it afterward, the more I really liked it. I'm glad to see the disc getting some decent treatment in the extras department.
  6. Joseph_mx

    Joseph_mx Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 14, 2002
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    I'll be picking up this one. [​IMG]
  7. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

    Jun 18, 2001
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  8. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

    Dec 28, 1998
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  9. Martin Fontaine

    Martin Fontaine Supporting Actor

    Aug 15, 2001
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    At work, I run the "Unofficial Video Rental Department" (I have a lot of DVDs and people borrow from me) The secretary often borrows movies from me, after seeing Chasing Amy and Ghost World she now says "Bring me a love story, not a weird one!" I wonder what she'll think of this!

    I'm buying it!
  10. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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    Two girls making out? Sounds like a purchase to me. [​IMG]
  11. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

    Jun 17, 1999
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    I'll be adding this one to my list. I had forgotten all about this film. Great review.
  12. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

    May 9, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Elizabeth S
    Jennifer Westfeldt's mannerisms and manner of speech reminded me of Annie Hall. Overall, I really liked this film and wouldn't mind seeing it again on DVD!
  13. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

    Jun 18, 2001
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    I was finally able to catch this on dvd. It's wonderful to see some attention cast on a small gem like this, one of such high caliber. Indeed, the presentation is marvelous as I found myself captivated by the story, the characters, and the quality of the sound and transfer. Damn, I wish I would've bought this instead of renting first.
    I have no problem with reviews of high profile releases...however, I think the masses are already familiar with the product and have made up their minds to purchase the dvd, regardless of the tilt of the review.
    Films of this quality, yet also those that did not receive buckshot press, deserve a second chance. I hope reviews of smaller films like this come with greater frequency (hint - Y Tu Mama Tambien, Oct. 22).
  14. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

    Jan 11, 2001
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    I just rented this film last night, and I, too, was mesmerized by the characters and the story of this film. Just wanted to say thanks to Ron and the HTF for yet another chance to view a movie that I more than likely would never have seen without reading about it here first. Highly recommended, and when I get the chance, I will add this to my collection.
  15. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    I also got the feeling that I'd seen this film before, and I would also say it take a lot of elements from Annie Hall, and throws in the lesbian angle, but much of the heart of the story remains intact.

    I rented this DVD, but will purchase it when I get a chance.

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