A Shared Moment

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Chasing Amy
  • IMDB: link

chasing-amy-posterI came into the View Askew Universe in the middle.  I hadn’t seen Clerks or Mallrats and didn’t even really know much about this filmmaker named Kevin Smith.  I was in college and over winter break a friend had recommended this film called Chasing Amy to me (thanks Mary!!).  She wouldn’t tell me much about it except that it was something she wouldn’t recommend to everyone but thought it was something I might like.

Back at school a month or two later I discovered that for two nights the university movie theater was showing that same film.  Remembering the recommendation and with nothing better to do I went and I went back the next night to see it again.  I can’t remember a film that touched me on so many levels and I’ve been a supporter of Kevin Smith ever since hoping one day he’ll find the magic he weaved in this film.  Over the years I’ve been entertained by Smith’s later work and enjoyed his two previous films but sadly none would measure up to the one so dear to my heart.

The film isn’t for everyone.  It’s about comic books, Star Wars, lesbianism, bisexuality, sex, friendship, and the kind of love that transcends everything.  Chances are quite a few people will be turned off by one of those subjects, but if you have an open mind I’d recommend you this film above all other romantic comedies.

Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) write the popular comic book “Bluntman and Chronic.”  Well, Holen actually draws the book; Banky is the tracer.  The film begins (and ends) at a comic convention where Holden is signing autographs and Banky is going balistic on their fans who question his contribution.

From there we move to the minority panel discussion involving their friend Hooper (Dwight Ewell) who writes a book called “White Hatin’ Coon.”  As Holden and Banky enter the auditorium Hooper is just launching into a diatribe about the racism implicit in Star Wars.  Hilarious!!  After the panel Hooper introduces the two to another comic writer Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) who Holden has an immediate attraction to unaware of her sexuality until the following night.

Despite Alyssa’s gay leanings, she and Holden find common interests and begin a friendship that is abruptly ended in a parked car during a rainstorm where Holden reveals his true feelings to the stunned Alyssa (my favorite scene of the film).  Holden and Alyssa do get together, despite Banky’s distrust of her which leads him to investigate her past and discover that lesbianism isn’t quite an accurate term for someone with her rather wide ranging sexual history.

Presented with the facts Holden is unable to deal with the situation and with nowhere else to turn he takes the advice of Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) who tells him the story of Amy.  Holden’s own solution to the problem is quite inventive and causes an end not only to his relationship with Alyssa but his friendship with Banky as well.

The film takes a harsh look at how complex loving someone is and dealing with their past indiscritons and lies.  At the same time it’s incredibly romantic as you can see the chemistry between Affleck and Adams in even their first scenes together.  It’s also unbelievably funny as the Jason Lee provides a bottomless pit of humor and raunch that includes a discussion of oral sex, an argument of the sexuality of Archie (the comic character), and his need for a collection of porn.

Ewell also gives a great performance as a black gay man who can only find acceptance by playing a straight black-power racist.  He and Lee almost steal the film.

At the heart of the film are Affleck and Adams.  Affleck has run the gamut of good to bad choices (even just looking at his roles in Smith’s films) but here he is totally at ease playing a character he understands and relates to.  Adams is tremendous as the complex Alyssa Jones dealing with every range of emotion with finese and class; how she hasn’t earned more starring roles in films is beyond me.  And boy can she belt out the Debbie Gibson!

The film breaks down into an insanely hilarious comedy in the first two thirds and a touching and stark drama in the end.  Smith’s mastery of the first may not wow you (though to be fair it is the funiest he’s ever been), but the emotional impact of the final act is dramatic and moving without ever relying on overt sentimentality.  There’s a truth here throughout the film that Smith will look seriously at these issues and deal with them sometimes humorously and sometimes painfully, much like life.

I love this film!  Simply put it is one of my favorite films of all time and the best film of the last twenty years.  This is Kevin Smith’s Annie Hall and sadly like Allen Smith may never reach this level of filmmaking again.  If you like romantic comedies with bite or just love you some comic books and Star Wars references or some funny dick jokes than this is the film for you.  For film buffs see if you can spot all the following in the film: View Askew producer Scott Mosier and his sister Kristin Mosier, associate producer Robert Hawk, Casey Affleck, Carmen Lee (then wife of Jason Lee, though she’s rather hard to miss), Brian O’Halloran (Clerks), Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada, and Matt Damon.

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