movie title with a participle is probably the best way to tell the
world you're an asshole who thinks he's clever and just loves to hear
his characters talk and talk and talk. It tells people: "This
movie isn't really about the participle; that's just a coy device."
See, Finding Forrester isn't about finding Forrester. It's
about finding yourself. They're all about finding your fucking self.
are just about the easiest and most obvious way to make your movies
appear both pretentious and bland enough to lure the phonies and
downtown fakers. The piss-on-granny-bad Being Human starring
Robin Williams, and Kevin Smith's I-Love-to-Hear-Myself-Talk Chasing
Amy are the best examples. So is the unfunny Saving Silverman,
the massively self-indulgent Storytelling, the overly self-amused
Being John Malkovich, spiritual train-wreck Pushing Tin,
and the seriously-stupid Finding Forrester. Sylvester Stallone
could have made his big gay pile-up Driven sound arthouse-ready
had he named it Driving.
There are exceptions,
sure, like Being There and Gleaming the Cube, which
overcame their titles to become classics. There are also some movies
that would have been better as participle flicks; I didn't want
to see The Bone Collector, but I would have gladly gone to
Boning the Collector. On the other hand, I would have been
way less willing to see The Man Who Wasn't There if it were
Being Not the Man Who Was There, or Go if it were
Stein is a participle movie. It's a cold, calculated fraud built
with a timid gimmick, sitcom jokes and a cheap formula, all blown
along by a gusts of nattering and whining.
people will say I'm pissed because this girl-girl relationship movie
has absolutely no hot girl-girl action. Not one of Candy Bottoms's
masterful lesbo tricks is here: not the Upward Camel, the Captain
Rump, the Wandering Jew or the Unseen Thumb. That did bother me
at first and I felt gypped. But, I'm trying to be a critic here
and that means not letting a movie's lack of salacious nudity distract
me from its other qualities. To that end, I jerked off a bunch before
writing this so I could view the movie as a man drained of his desires,
and also feeling sort of empty and sad. With clarity, I can tell
you Kissing Jessica Stein stinks--and I hate myself.
Star and co-writer
Jennifer Westfeldt is copy editor Jessica Stein, yet another in
an endless stream of whiny, neurotic Manhattanites with love troubles.
Like all Manhattan single women, she has a fabulous apartment and
a refrigerator holding only Chinese takeout and Haagen Dazs. Add
to this that while she is an tightly-wound perfectionist by day,
she's an undiscovered abstract painter by night. It's also implied
that she's really smart because she reads philosophy. That's an
elephant's load of crap because anyone can read philosophy. It's
actually understanding it that means someone's smart. She shows
absolutely no capacity to do more than recognize sentences out of
After the same
fucking series of "wacky" disastrous blind dates that
we see in every movie about whiny people who can't find love, she
is smitten by a personal ad from someone quoting Rilke. It turns
out to be from a woman (co-writer Heather Juergensen), but Westfeldt
is so desperate she'll try anything to find a soulmate. All the
while, of course, she works with her gruff ex-boyfriend and they
secretly still want each other. (Guess who she ends up with. Think
real hard: what would a movie that pretends it's arthouse but is
really pure Hollywood do?)
a gallery art director and a wild bohemian with three boyfriends
and two "sassy" gay sidekicks who try to shock us with
their use of the word "dick." My word, gay men like dicks,
what a shocker. She has never had a lesbian relationship either,
but is more determined and looser than Westfeldt. The two women
slowly negotiate a relationship they are comfortable with, and that
has plenty of whiny interludes where Westfeldt deliberates about
telling her family and friends about her totally daring decision.
There are "comedic" stops along the way for the girls
to discuss who will wear the strap-on devices, let the gay men get
snippy, and titillate two men who think lesbian sex is hot. The
strap-on scene is absurd because the answer is so fucking obvious.
One lesbian doesn't wear it; both do, and they have swordfights
and pretend they're pirates. Derrr.
Westfeldt has to come to terms with what she was looking for: not
a sexual partner but a friend. And the last fifteen minutes of the
movie rush her to a heterosexual end that feels as compromised and
calculated as the rest of this movie. It's not about a girl kissing
Jessica Stein, see, it's about her embracing herself.
horseshit, because as far as I can tell, the two leads in this movie
already love themselves plenty. The movie isn't about their relationship
and it's not about the reactions of others. It's about them being
impressed with themselves. The relationship and the tiresome dialog
skims along the surface, talking about lipstick and pants. We're
told the girls are attracted to each other but they're more self-involved
than my dog sniffing its ass. The lengthy gabbing is too busy throwing
in quotes and ideas by better writers to establish its pedigree
than getting to the point. And Westfeldt unloads her fake neuroses
in too many dull ripoffs of good Woody Allen. Good Woody Allen slices
right to the bone, but a bad imitation is like a rusty saw blade;
it grinds noisily but it never cuts.
annoying scene shows Westfeldt is too uptight because she won't
talk about sex while shopping for produce. That doesn't seem uptight
to me; it seems like common sense. Only smug pricks who think the
world wants to know about their peccadillos talk about them loudly
in public. That's the way this movie is; it's like the asshole with
the cell phone who wants you to hear how cool and adventurous he
Stein is also as calculatedly safe as an NBC sitcom. Westfeldt
and Juergensen aren't so much committed to an idea as they are to
making this story inoffensive while enjoying the fruits of being
"outrageous." Although I saw it in the pretentious Landmark
theater, it's extremely artless. The "daring" bits are
clearly pointed out to us as "daring," and they are only
as daring as basic cable. The sex is never shown and the kissing
is never passionate. The heroine ends up hetero because that's easier
to sell to the public.
characters are tiresome clichés dragged out to prop up the
flagging main story. There is a potty-mouthed granny, the gay Greek
Chorus, the acerbic best friend at work, the mother who really knows
her daughter is doing it with a chick, and the co-worker she really
I want more
lesbian cinema. I want bull-dykes playing softball and lipstick
lesbians falling in love, and sometimes bull-dykes beating the shit
out of lipstick lesbians. I don't want to pay eight bucks for another
participle flick that plays like an extended episode of "Will
and Grace." Two Fingers for Kissing Jessica Stein.
to tell Filthy Something?