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Chasing Amy

(1997)

Directed by

Kevin Smith

 Chasing Amy Poster

Review by Todd Plucknett

 

Chasing Amy is a romantic comedy-drama by famed writer-director Kevin Smith. It takes a great premise and mixes it with Smith’s token crude humor to create a brilliant and unforgettable look into the lives of two unlikely people who fall in love.

The film centers on Holden McNeil (Oscar-winner Ben Affleck). He and his inseparable best friend Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) are comic book artists. At a comic book convention, they meet Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), another comic book writer. Instantly Holden and Alyssa hit it off. The three of them go have drinks with another friend, Hooper (Dwight Ewell). Alyssa and Holden have a great time playing darts and talking about life.

Later on, Holden reveals to Banky that they “shared a moment,” and that he obviously really likes the girl. He is invited to go to a club by Hooper, who was asked by Alyssa to have him come. He goes with high hopes of hooking up with her. While they are there, Alyssa gets up on the stage to sing a song. After the song, she begins passionately kissing another girl. What they didn’t realize, though Smith does a fine job hinting at it to the audience, is that Alyssa is a lesbian. That night is where the most laughs come from this film. Banky and Alyssa have a side-splitting conversation comparing sexual experiences with women, while Holden is inconsolable and dejected from this revelation.

The next day, Holden calms down and goes to hang out with Alyssa. They become good friends and spend a lot of time together. Holden, however, cannot keep his actual feelings to himself. Banky also does not like Alyssa. Their relationship begins to show strain as Holden’s relationship with Alyssa becomes more intimate. There are plenty of surprising moments that occur in the scenes to follow, leading up to the fantastic conclusion without falling into cliché.

This is the most mature screenplay that Smith has ever written. It has far less laughs than Clerks, but what it does have is a tough, yet beautifully-developed romance between two characters. The greatest scenes are the ones between the two of them. The chemistry that Adams and Affleck have is superb. You really believe them as friends and potential lovers. There is one scene in particular that is spectacularly acted and touching that takes place in a parking lot outside of a hockey rink. Both actors do credible work. Affleck gives one of his better performances here. Adams (who can also be seen in films such as Dazed and Confused, Big Daddy, and Mallrats) is someone who I have always been fond of and intrigued by. Her unique voice and presence on screen make her a memorable actress. Her performance here is as good as any that I have seen from a 1997 release. Her dramatic abilities as well as comedic timing make the character of Alyssa staggeringly brilliant. It was such a difficult role, and she absolutely performs flawlessly. Lee also gives a nice and hilarious turn as the complicated and potentially homophobic Banky. It is a very well acted film.

What completes the film for Smith is his crude humor and references to other films. There are inevitable Star Wars references and a Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) appearance, in which Silent Bob has more than a few lines. Brian O’Halloran (Dante in Clerks), Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck also have cameos. There are countless references to Smith’s other films, some that only a true fan could figure out. It is so funny and perfectly detailed, and it all works wonderfully.

The movie may have the least raw hilarity of Smith’s films, but it is the most rewarding. It has other ways of pleasing its audience. The character development and tender scenes make the film the most memorable and mature of Smith’s features. It is a fantastic film that really delves into human relationships and perceptions and how they affect lifestyles. Also, it shows the true power of love and how it can conquer even the most extreme of circumstances, but it never plays it up in a formulaic way. The ending could have easily copped out, but it somehow avoids it. It is one of those difficult films that is both highly entertaining and genuine. You really see these characters as being legitimate. They react like normal people would, and they have human flaws. It is a remarkable film that may be the most widely appealing feature for Smith. I am a huge Clerks fan, but with a few more viewings, this may very well edge it out as my favorite of his films.

Rating:

# 7 of 1997

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