Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Joey Lauren Adams
Chasing Amy, writer-director Kevin Smith’s third feature film, represents his first delve into “serious” filmmaking, and whilst not straying too far from the whip-smart conversational humour that characterised his first two efforts, Clerks and Mallrats, it reaches greater dramatic heights than either of Smith’s two initial showings ever suggested possible.
Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee) are two artists who between them produce a successful comic. Holden falls for Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), who he’s dismayed to discover is a lesbian. Unperturbed, he pursues a friendship with Alyssa which threatens to derail his bond with Banky, and only serves to complicate his feelings for Alyssa further.
It’s hardly ground breaking in terms of plot, although Smith has a clear mandate when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, going to real pains to set it up as no more or no less significant than a heterosexual relationship. This message is perhaps a little heavy-handed in parts, but it’s still a significant breath of fresh air for Hollywood, which still insists on either ignoring the idea or giving it so much gravitas that it renders the message that it’s no different to heterosexuality moot.
As always with Smith, the dialogue is relentless, oscillating between crude immaturity, filthy epithets, and deceptively smart quips. It’s thankfully dialled back somewhat, with Smith realising that transposing such often unnatural speech patterns onto real life situations (they worked in Clerks thanks to its microcosmic atmosphere) comes at the detriment of audience engagement, as evidenced by Mallrats hit and miss approach.
The three main characters are all fleshed out nicely and given their fair share of the screen time, the pacing is brisk, and the story of the relationship will ring much truer with many viewers than the hackneyed ‘get together – break up – get back together’ trajectory of 99% of Hollywood rom-coms. Unfortunately, the tone, as with Mallrats, is uneven at best; it’s difficult to reconcile scenes of heartfelt, realistic dialogue between Holden and Alyssa with Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) riffing in their own inimitable stoner fashion, complete with funky bass line.
Smith shows a maturity in Chasing Amy that many would have thought him incapable of after Clerks and Mallrats, and whilst no means perfect, it’s a significant improvement on the latter, and can be considered, along with the former, arguably his finest work.