Kissing Jessica Stein

a reader responds

Not being a fan of the romantic comedy (hopefully my taste, although mainstream, manages to extend somewhat beyond the traditional Tom ‘n’  Meg affairs) I was quite surprised  on searching for the film’s soundtrack to  see the words ‘very innocuous and forgettable’ in a Google search result referring to your review of  Herman-Wurmfeld’s ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’.    I personally found it quite an exceptional film, for it’s genre, and was interested to read the rest of your comments.   On doing so, I wonder how much of your attention was in fact focussed on the dialogue?

You say she responds to a lonely-hearts ad “presuming the author to be a man”.  

Whilst her attention is initially attracted to the Rilke quote contained in the lonely-hearts ad, she does indeed know that it was placed by a woman (it’s in the ‘Woman seeks  woman’ section)  – in fact the underlying function of the quotation within the script is to lay the foundation for the character’s  realisation (exacerbated  by her boss’s cutting remarks during an earlier dinner party)  that she should broaden her currently limited  horizons. Were she to have responded to the advertisement without understanding that it was placed by another woman  then it would strip the Rilke quote of it’s fundamental relevance to the storyline:

“For it is not simply because of mere sluggishness alone that human relationships repeat themselves from case to case in such unspeakably monotonous and unfrefreshed ways; there is also a certain shyness for new, unforeseeable experiences generally, because one doesn’t feel up to them. But only for the one who is on the lookout for everything, who excludes nothing not even the most enigmatic, will the relationship to another become something alive and speak to the whole potential of one’s existence.”

[alternative translation to that used in the film]

Then you describe the author of the lonely-hearts ad, Helen, “who herself has a track record of both gay and straight affairs”.   Although she makes this claim on her first meeting with Jessica, it is merely to put the other woman – and, quite possibly, herself -more at ease.   In fact, prior to placing the ad her experiences have been 100% heterosexual – she has a 10 minute scene  with her two gay friends solely about this, during which the more encouraging finds her the Rilke quotation and the other, disparaging friend actually harps on about the inappropriateness of her belittling their homosexuality by choosing to try lesbianism out as if it were a trend.   Later, when the relationship develops between the two women, there is another scene with this couple during which the entire topic of conversation revolves around his disgust that she isn’t genuinely gay.  

The fact that you overlooked these fundamental points within the script would suggest that you entirely missed the point about the film. Perhaps you gave it 5/10  because you failed   understand  it. Or maybe you were distracted  by  girls snogging.   The sad thing is that you probably put a lot of people off with your poor review.   I thought it was  a delight from start to finish (possibly with the exception of a poorly acted and somewhat strange, shaky-cam scene in the middle).   Also, it was  a pleasure in  a romantic comedy to be fed intelligent and witty dialogue by the scriptwriters -most of which you seem to have missed out on.   Shame.


For Neil Young’s original review click here.