Chasing Amy (1997)

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I really love Kevin Smith. His dialogue is so great in all of his movies. He is a big nerd like me, so every time he references Star Wars or comic books, I feel like he is talking to me. No director is able to reach out to their audience like Smith does. He has a small, but faithful, cult following and manages to please most of us regularly. He is one of the few celebrities that regularly engages with his audience, whether that is on Twitter, Facebook, or one of his many podcasts (Hollywood Babble-On with Ralph Garman is my favourite) or taking his film Red State on a tour of America for screenings and a Q&A afterwards. I really respect that he has not forgotten that without his fans, he would not be able to make movies and he is always making efforts to engage with his fans whenever possible.

Chasing Amy is the story of comic book writer Holden MacNeil (Ben Affleck) who falls in love with fellow writer Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). The catch is, Alyssa happens to be a lesbian. Can Holden convert her, and even if he can, will it last? The supporting cast is great. Jason Lee is a lot of fun as Banky, Holden’s inker (tracer!!) and Dwight Ewell is terrific as Hooper, a gay man masquerading as a black panther wannabe because it helps the sales of his comic book ‘White Hating Coon’. His scene at the start of the film where he discusses how insulting the Star Wars trilogy is to black people is one of my favourite Kevin Smith moments ever.

This film is obviously a very personal film for Smith. It is the first, and currently only, movie of his that deals with real issues in a dramatic way. Most of his films revolve around stoner jokes and pop culture references tied together by a weak story. These films are great, but it is nice to see he is able to get real when it is required. There is still comedy in this film, but I would definitely classify it as more of a drama. This is certainly not the case with most of Smith’s repertoire.

Like I said before, Smith’s dialogue is what makes his films winners. He is able to capture so well how real conversations take place. I have tried my hand at scriptwriting in the past, and the hardest thing to do is make sure that what your characters are saying is believable and how people really talk. All of the characters in this film have some great lines throughout. Jason Lee and Dwight Ewell are really funny and have some gold to work with in the script. Banky’s argument at a comic con about whether or not he is merely a tracer of Holden’s work is brilliant. I really loved Lee’s character, it is similar to his work in Smith’s pervious film, Mallrats. Both were comic book lovers, but Banky seems a little more down to earth than the out there Brodie Bruce.

I really enjoy this film every time I see it. It has brilliant dialogue and a very personal story that must have been a real challenge to make for Smith.

Rating: B

I’ve never really considered myself a Kevin Smith fan, but I think I might be on my way to joining the ranks. I get the distinct impression that he’s one of the rare Hollywood celebrities who is genuinely grateful for his good luck, and attributes much of his success to his loyal fan base. He’s a massive comic book and movie nerd, which leads to some fun and witty dialogue in his films. But he’s also able to add seriousness to scripts in order to point out life’s hypocrisies.

Chasing Amy is a what I’d describe as a Kevin Smith pseudo-comedy, something halfway between the wall-to-wall raunch comedy of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the insane seriousness of Red State. This film definitely has Smith’s signature wit and humor, which is mostly channeled through homophobic Banky Edwards (played by Jason Lee). But it also takes a look at stereotypes and the double standards that plague heteronormative romantic relationships.

The film mostly focuses on Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), a comic book writer who falls in love with fellow comic author Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). Problem is, not only is Alyssa gay, she also has a sexual past that tests Holden’s fragile ego. First off, I immediately hated Affleck’s character because he is named Holden, which brings to mind The Catcher in the Rye. I haaaaaated that book, and much like Holden Caulfield, Holden McNeil is an insufferable douche. He only starts hanging out with Alyssa in hopes of dating her, then disappears when he finds out she’s a lesbian and has no chance of sleeping with her. He then becomes her friend, and once he’s gotten her trust as a friend, he very selfishly tells her that he loves her romantically. For some reason Alyssa decides to date Holden, but when her wild sexual past is revealed he can’t handle it. Despite her assertions that the past is the past and she loves him, Holden dumps her. And then in a bid to get her back, he proposes a threesome with Banky to even the playing field.

While most of the blame lies with Holden, Alyssa isn’t exactly blameless. When asked if she’s ever had sex with a man, she sidesteps the question and lets Holden believe he’s her “first.” While her motives for doing this are understandable (she correctly guesses that Holden will be super insecure about her past), it’s still wrong. And given the small community that they hail from, she should have expected him to eventually find out and be upset. Chasing Amy says some great things about society’s double standards when it comes to the sex lives of men and women, but I think the best part of the movie is that neither character comes across as morally superior. They both make mistakes, and both eventually learn from them.

Rating: B-

2 thoughts on “Chasing Amy (1997)

  1. Pingback: Dogma (1999) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

  2. Pingback: Mallrats (1995) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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