I just adored this movie. I don’t know, maybe I’d notice problems on a second viewing, but it seemed perfect in every way on the first. Jennifer Westfeldt as Jessica is exactly right as a somewhat conservative young woman who’s nervously bi-curious; she sets out to scratch her itch, kicking and screaming all the way. Her family, especially her loving mama (Tovah Feldshuh, a regular guest lawyer on Law & Order who deserves more acting exposure), gives great Jewish attitude. Girlfriend Helen (Heather Juregensen) is gorgeous and thoroughly believable as a bi woman who’s as comfortable blending her sexuality as she is blending 3 lipsticks. (Westfeldt and Juregensen wrote the script as well.)
Jessica’s jumpy jitters about coming out—a phrase that’s never uttered but runs silently through every scene—and her fear of admitting she’s involved in a – gasp! – lesbian relationship is entirely believable: within minutes I was reeling back to my first serious relationship with a woman, in which I felt natural and altogether right when we were indoors alone or with other women, but was secretly and silently freaked out the minute we stepped outside. Unlike Jessica’s long period of foreplay, which lasted something like 3 months, I acted as if I was rarin’ to go, but deep inside I was as terrified as she was. That fear vanished in afterglow–but fear of coming out to old friends, co-workers, and family never went away. I wonder if that means the movie’s dated, considering that my “coming out” occurred in the mid-70’s, and in Jessica Stein we’re talking about last year. I don’t think so, though: human emotions are eternal, and besides, though attitudes have certainly changed , families and co-workers of those who step over the line, no matter how liberal they want to be, just aren’t universally sanguine about it.
Other than that tiny possibility, there’s not a false note in this film. It’s funny and occasionally poignant, without the saccharine sentimentality usually injected into the topic. Oh and by the way, it’s also sexy—very. Not as in X-Rated, more as in real life. Maybe as lesbian movies improve they’ll erase the memory of Lianna, a feeble attempt by John Sayles to normalize lesbianism that included the most distasteful portrayals of human sexuality, of any kind or gender, I have ever seen.
I don’t want to give away the ending to KJS, so I won’t say anymore about the plot. Rent it today, girlfriend, and see it with a girl. Or boy. Afterwards play Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl .