Blessed by casual charm and sophisticated wit, Kissing Jessica Stein does for same-sex romance what Annie Hall did for straight neurotics. The influence of Woody Allen is keenly felt on this resourceful New York comedy (expanded from an off-Broadway play), especially when cowriter and costar Jennifer Westfeldt channels Diane Keaton's "la-di-da" nervousness as Jessica Stein, a romantically frustrated heterosexual copyeditor who impulsively answers a personal ad from a bisexual woman. Helen (cowriter Heather Juergensen) is as relaxed about lesbian love as Jessica is anxious, but they click as lovers, and so does the movie's delightful exploration of their budding relationship, which is further complicated by Jessica's yenta-like mother (Tovah Feldshuh) and a former boyfriend (Scott Cohen) who's now Jessica's boss. While acknowledging the serious repercussions of Jessica's bisexual flirtation, Kissing Jessica Stein takes its characters on a smart, compassionate journey of self-discovery that's as truthfully observant as it is gently entertaining. --Jeff Shannon
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