The Good: Funny, Intelligent, Well-Acted, Characters, Edgy plot
The Bad: Underuse of Jay and Silent Bob, Disparities in Holden's i.q.
The Basics: A worthwhile film often misinterpreted as being about lesbian and heterosexual relationships when, in fact, it is about individuals being true to themselves and each other, Chasing Amy succeeds.
On the DVD to Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier discuss their library of works in baseball terms. They believe themselves to have a career of "admirable doubles" with one strike out. I tend to disagree. While Jay And Silent Bob Strikes Back is an admirable double, which was in the truest form a gift to fans of Smith's works, two of his other works are much more than that. Dogma (reviewed here!) is easily a home run and Chasing Amy is at least a solid triple.
Chasing Amy tells the story of Holden McNeil. He's a comic book artist who is often accompanied by his good friend Banky, the inker on the Bluntman And Chronic comic they work on together. Holden is a nice enough guy who falls rather instantly in love with Alyssa upon their initial meeting. After they are out for the second time, Holden learns that Alyssa is a lesbian and after a confrontation filled with honesty and emotion, they become friends. Holden and Alyssa have a wonderful relationship until Holden declares his love for her. After that, the film changes. The two begin a relationship that defies definitions and challenges those around them. Surprisingly unaffected is Alyssa. More affected are Holden and Banky and when Alyssa's past is unearthed, Holden and Banky are each forced to confront the truth about themselves.
Where Chasing Amy succeeds is in its portrayal of people as individuals. The characters are not simply "types" written to fit into neatly defined criteria. Instead, the characters define themselves, allowing their own personalities to determine their path, as opposed to letting the labels they have to dominate their existence. Alyssa's speech when she is in bed with Holden is a perfect example, when she speaks of loving Holden on her own terms and not for any other reason.
The film is about defying roles and being an individual, being actualized as opposed to buying into a label, stereotype or group. There is no one in this film that is not aware of who they are and that is a rare thing. One of the shining examples is the supporting character Hooper X. Hooper understands he has an image of black power to sell over his softer, homosexual affect which he lives honestly by. The dichotomy is remarkable.
It's refreshing to see a film with a few characters who are each quite well defined. In essence, there are only six characters, three of whom - Alyssa, Holden and Banky - who dominate the story. And the thing is, the story is advanced by each of the characters contributing and each one does so within their means and personality. This film is remarkably devoid of anything artificial. Each of the characters feels real.
And that's the strength, the magic, of this admirable triple. In reality, there are colors, things are not black and white or shades of gray, there are colors which fill the world and surround us.
As a bonus, each of the actors gives a great performance. Ben Affleck gives an uncharacteristically good portrayal of Holden. Joey Lauren Adams portrays Alyssa with wonderful depth. But the real scene stealers are Jason Lee as Banky and Dwight Ewell as Hooper. They each take very good characters on paper and transform them into excellent characters on screen.
The weakness of Chasing Amy is largely in the mind of the viewer. I admire Holden's meta-consciousness. His ability to look at the two important people in his life and evaluate them with intelligence and insight is remarkable. It is, therefore, frustrating that the action he takes, the decision he ultimately makes, displays a remarkable lack of logic or intelligence.
Outside that, the film is a true modern classic, a wonderful 90s tale that captures essential points of human growth from young adulthood into adulthood.
For other works with Ben Affleck, be sure to check out my reviews of:
He's Just Not That Into You
Forces Of Nature
Shakespeare In Love
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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