#7 – “CHASING AMY” (1997)
Directed by Kevin Smith
Whilst watching Kevin Smith’s frankly dismal 2010 Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan vehicle “Cop Out” on Blu-ray last year it was hard not to be reminded of the sheer impact his debut feature “Clerks” had had on audiences and critics sixteen years earlier. Yet whilst the low-budget adventures of Dante and Randall continue to sit proudly amongst my all-time favourite comedies to this very day it was to be Smith’s third film, the 1997 romantic comedy “Chasing Amy”, that was to show the New Jersey born filmmaker at his most heartfelt, sincere and mature.
For whilst Smith still retained his sharp ear for dialogue in a truly stellar screenplay that bristled with the usual pop culture references, coarse humour and surprisingly frank discussions about sex “Chasing Amy” afforded its characters far more space to breathe this time around and thus they emerged considerably more rounded and fleshed out than the bunch of freaks, geeks and misfits who’d frequented the Quick Stop just three short years earlier.
It’s in the midst of a comic convention that we’re first introduced to two of them, namely one Holden McNeill (Ben Affleck) and one Banky Edwards (Jason Lee in an infectiously hilarious performance), as they sign copies of their latest comic book “Bluntman and Chronic”. One argument about inking vs. tracing, one violent outburst, one racism-baiting Star Wars re-interpretation and one fake shooting later and in walks Alyssa Jones (the divine Joey Lauren Adams), the creator of the comic book “Idiosyncratic Routine”. She and Holden appear to hit it off almost immediately and go out for a few drinks where their relationship continues to flourish.
Later, when talking to best friend Banky, he claims that he and Alyssa “shared a moment” and thus confesses that he has fallen for her. But despite the question of whether or not it’s truly love, Holden is in for a big surprise when he discovers Alyssa’s biggest secret … she’s a lesbian. So, whilst she wants to continue being friends, Holden soon finds himself helplessly and hopelessly smitten.
“Chasing Amy” is a startlingly candid film even for Smith, a writer not averse to filling his actors mouth with all manner of lyrical lewdness, with colourful discourses on such topics as sexuality, gay stereotyping and sexual acts brushing shoulders with the usual Star Wars references and an opportunity to reference the events of “Clerks” and thus further the interlocking nature of Smith’s “New Jersey Trilogy” (a trilogy that, it should be added, currently comprises five films!).
Yet the screenplay is so rife with wit, humour and intelligence and the cast so infinitely likeable that such talk never feels forced, unnatural or unnecessary. Witness the scene where Alyssa and Banky share stories of their wild romantic trysts and proceed to detail and display their various injuries sustained during sex in a hilarious scene that expertly riffs on the famous Quint-Hooper scar scene from “Jaws”.
Performance wise both Adams and Affleck are eminently watchable with Adams delivering a performance that buzzes with a raw sexuality, frankness and mysterious aura that is never less than electrifying with a soulfully sexy rendition of the song “Alive” (a track penned by none other than Adams herself) providing more than enough evidence as to why Holden finds himself so attracted to her. Likewise Affleck reminds us all that before the likes of “Pearl Harbour”, “Armageddon” and, god forbid, “Gigli” he was a talented young actor with Holden coming across as a highly passionate, emotional and confused young man whose feelings could very well affect everything he truly believes in. Alongside Affleck, Adams and Lee able support is provided by Dwight Ewell, brief cameos from both Matt Damon and Casey Affleck and, lest we forget, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith as the dynamic duo of Jay and Silent Bob in a delightful scene that sees Bob steal most of the limelight as he recalls the tragic tale of a lost love that lends the film its title.
Yet Bob’s vocal outpourings are but one of many glorious moments contained within from the beautifully heartfelt speech Holden delivers to Alyssa that expresses his truest, pent up feelings for her to Alyssa’s response to the question of why she ultimately chose Holden and betrayed years of emotional belief and feelings. And it’s such moments as these that elevate “Chasing Amy” from the simple ranks of “just another adult comedy” into the realms of thought provoking, intelligent and assured film-making. It’s a film that thankfully retains everything that made “Clerks” such an enduring classic yet also provides us with plenty of evidence of Smith’s growing skills as both a filmmaker and a screenwriter. ‘Tis indeed a pity, then, that he’s yet to reproduce such glory days …
Drawing from Smith’s own personal experiences, and his then-relationship with Joey Lauren Adams “Chasing Amy” is a film that’s sure to delight fans of Kevin Smith’s brand of humour whilst also surprising audiences with its emotional core, intelligence and maturity. Do yourself a favour and chase down Amy today …
“You gotta respect that kind of display of affection, you know what I mean? Sure, it’s crazy, it’s rude, it’s self-absorbed, but, uh, you know, it’s love.”
Track #8 – “LUCKY ONE” (1997)
Written by Dave Pirner
(Performed by Soul Asylum)