Kissing Jessica Stein opens with a scene of Jessica in Temple with her parents and grandmother on Yom Kippur, being hounded by her mother about being in her late 20s and not married. Already, I loved this movie. The opening scene tells you almost everything you need to know about her, without coming across as clumsy exposition. Jessica goes on a series of terrible dates that her mother sets up for her; at a dinner party with friends, she regales them with stories of how awful each date was until Josh (a former boyfriend and current co-worker) tells her that the reason she doesn't find love is that she isn't open to it. This makes Jessica examine herself, and when a personal ad quoting one of her favorite poets shows up in the newspaper she works at, she answers it. The catch? The ad was in the "women seeking women" section.
The ad was placed by Helen, a bisexual art gallery curator who is tired of tawdry relationships with men. The two meet for drinks and they click, despite Jessica's uncertainty and neuroses. Their relationship grows stronger, but Jessica still struggles to figure out how to let people in her life know about what she and Helen have, and how to become more expressive in their sex life. A conversation between Jessica and her mother gives her the confidence to attend her brother's wedding with Helen as her date, and the two women move in together soon after.
I don't really want to spoil the ending for you, but one of my main impressions from the movie stems from its ending, so here goes. Jessica and Helen fall into a rut; Helen wants much more sex in their relationship and feels that they have become nothing more than best friends and roommates, but Jessica is happy with how things are. They break up. The movie's final scenes show Jessica running into Josh at a bookstore and possibly rekindling their relationship, Helen waking in the arms of her new girlfriend, and the two women meeting at a cafe and talking like friends.
Really, it's a sweet ending, but I do have a problem with it. The whole movie up to this point has been about Jessica's emotional journey towards accepting herself and letting another person in. The end basically hits the reset button on everything that's just happened. OK, that's not entirely true, but that's how it felt. I know that sexual orientation can be a fluid thing, and that people experiment at different times of their lives, but it felt like a little bit like a cheat here, you know? "Yes, the pretty girl is playing at having a girlfriend for a while, but don't worry - she'll be back!"
That said, the character does have some growth. By the end, she's learned to slow down, embrace new things, and let people in. She and Helen both have an important new friendship. I guess that I just wanted this movie to have a happily-ever-after for them, because both of the female leads were really appealing performers, and were cute together.
Other things I liked... Jon Hamm is in this movie! Turns out that he's been involved with the actress who plays Jessica since the late '90s. His role is blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but it's still fun seeing him show up. In Helen and Jessica's first meeting, Helen talks about how she has one boyfriend who she calls when she's hungry, one who she calls when she's horny, etc. Jessica's response? "Who do you call when you get sick?" I love it - even in the 2000's, nice Jewish girls know to look for a doctor. On that note, I also loved the Jewish grandmothers at the wedding, planning out Jessica and Helen's life for them.
The one thing I couldn't get past? This movie was set in NYC in 2002, and it shows two young people using newspaper personals. That was so out of place, that it actually took me a second to remember, "Oh yeah, people used to pay to have personal ads printed in the paper. Strange..." I mean, I've been married since 2002, and even I had used Internet personals before the turn of the century.
OK, despite my nitpicks, I really liked this movie. It was cute without being cutesy, and sweet without being saccharine. There were some great laughs, and I really cared about what would happen to these two girls.
RATING - I give this one five bowls of chicken noodle soup out of five.
LESSON - If you're in a relationship, go all in or don't bother.
And that's it for Dude, That's So Gay! I wasn't sure what the reaction would be like over these last few days, so I thank you for joining me in a quest to show that love is love. Tomorrow starts four days of Julia Roberts movies, but until then I leave you with this...