Reviews — March 28
The romantic comedy “Kissing Jessica Stein” was shot in 2001 and had the misfortune of being unveiled at a film festival on Sept. 10, one day before the 9/11 attacks. It’s understandable that American audiences had other things on their minds when it finally hit theaters. Also, it wasn’t a typical “date movie,” as the leads were two women, played by the actors who originated the parts in an off-Broadway theatrical production — and subsequently co-wrote and produced the film.
The film’s playful charm rendered it impervious to criticisms by some that it played too easily with the complicated issue of bisexuality, which it surely does. On the other hand, it at least put the issue out there while telling a good story with two appealing actors who clearly have a lot of chemistry and impeccable comedic timing — to write it together, they’d certainly have to!
The couple is played by Heather Juergensen, a comfortably bisexual art gallery worker who falls for the film’s title character, wonderfully played by Jennifer Westfeldt as a “straight” New Yorker who learns she perhaps isn’t as straight as she thought — but comfortable so long as no one finds out. Interesting trivia: Westfeldt is the partner of “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, who has a cameo here. Fun all the way around.
“Kissing Jessica Stein” Directed by Charles Herman Wurmfeld. Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen and Jackie Hoffman. 97 minutes. Rated R for language, adult themes.
I dipped my big toe into “Where Trouble Sleeps,” and before I even noticed the damp, I knew I wanted to dive into Clyde Edgerton’s whole lake of work.
Great characters, plenty of humor, a charming story — a whole bunch of them, in fact — and a lively, yet laid back, style of telling them contribute to this irresistible little book. “Trouble” is one of several titles by Edgerton on the shelf at the McMinnville Public Library; thank goodness!
“Where Trouble Sleeps” is set in Listre, North Carolina, where everything has been pretty much the same since anybody can remember. ‘Bout the only thing that’s changed is the addition of the blinking light that hangs above the crossroads in center of this small town; it was installed after the truck-mule head-on collision, although, truth be told, it would have stopped neither the mule nor the truck.
Eleven years hence, in 1950, the head-on has become yet another legend in local lore. It’s retold whenever a fresh set of ears rolls into town, often by Mr. Train, who was driving the truck in question and who’s now in a wheelchair, not because of the mule but because of a World War II injury.
Mr. Train also runs the bar, tinkers with radios and owns Trouble, the weather-predicting old dog that lends his name to the book’s title.
Each character has many stories rich with detail. Edgerton weaves them together easily, creating a magic carpet of a novel.
The action is viewed from the perspective of several different characters, notably Stephen, a 6-year-old who observes everything with curiosity and without prejudice; Mrs. Clark, secretary of the Southern Baptist Church, who is more prepared than most to meet her Savior; Jack Umstead, aka whatever alias rolls off his tongue first, a stranger who arrives in a Buick Eight and plots to upset the placid little town.
“Where Trouble Sleeps” is storytelling in the vein of “News from Lake Wobegon,” as readable as Garrison Keillor’s radio reports are listenable. You’ll love visiting with Listre’s 511 residents, and you’ll probably want to take a seat and stay awhile.
“Where Trouble Sleeps” by Clyde Edgerton, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1997.