Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy has a lot to say but has trouble finding a voice. It contains a lot of situations and dialogue exchanges that you think might be leading to something, but in the end, we don’t get anything of purpose. It’s like the film was so psyched up pre-showing that once it hit the stage, it forgot the end of its speech, and instead of going out with the crowd roaring, it scampers off as the curtain falls and the audience is left wonder if that was really it. Yes, audience, that’s all.

That doesn’t, by any stretch, mean that Chasing Amy is bad. I enjoyed a lot of it, but when it comes to actually saying something, which seemed to me what it was building up to, the film stutters and falls silent. I was surprised by that given that the writer/director, Kevin Smith, never seems to be afraid to speak his mind, but maybe, considering the film was supposed to be semi-autobiographical, the real life story hadn’t concluded and he was therefore left without an ending.

The plot is pretty straightforward, although it sure takes a long time to get anywhere. The basic idea is that a guy falls in love with a girl, but she can’t love him back. You’ve heard this story before. In this case, the guy is named Holden (Ben Affleck), the girl is named Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), and she can’t love him because of a little problem known as “being a lesbian.” Yeah, she apparently doesn’t find him attractive at all because she doesn’t swing that way. Of course, he’s not going to take “no” for an answer, so he befriends her instead, hoping that one day she’ll fall in love with him regardless of sexual persuasion.

Meanwhile, Holden’s comic book drawing pal, Banky (Jason Lee) is dismissive of their “relationship,” if you can even call it that. He thinks it’ll threaten their business, but most importantly, their friendship. Why? I dunno. Maybe he’s just jealous of Holden spending time with another person, or maybe, like Dwight Ewell’s gay character speculates, Banky is actually in love with his best friend, but doesn’t want anyone to know.

You can see how some sensitive subject matter is brought up here. For a lot of the time, it seemed like it was building toward some sort of message. Instead, the tension just kind of defused, no point was made, and characters were left to return to their lives. Little change was really made, no message was brought across to the viewer, although there were some laughs and sweet moments for us to indulge in.

Instead of going for raunchy joke after raunchy joke, Smith decides that he’s going to tone his style of humor down a bit for this film. This is more of a drama than an outright comedy, having that second “raunchy joke” bit replaced with a dramatic situation, usually related to ones sexual orientation or history — or both. Oh, sure, the raunchiness is there, but it seemed less prevalent here than it did in most of Smith’s other works.

Chasing Amy actually tries to get us to care about these characters, which was less important in earlier Smith films. Sure, you liked these people because they had relatable situations and didn’t seem like they were bad, but you didn’t care much about them. Here, an attempt is made for that empathy. It didn’t necessarily always work, and there were times when things seemed way blown out of proportion to me, but on the whole, I’ll take a marginally succeeding effort than no attempt at all.

Acting is actually pretty solid. I’ve never really disliked Affleck, even if he’s often too wooden in his roles. Adams is good as well, although the real star is Lee, who gets relegated to the background thanks to the love story but really carries himself well. I actually liked his character the best out of the top three, even though he gets by far the least amount of screen time. He does something special with his character to make it more memorable than the rest of the cast.

That is, more memorable than anyone except for the two drug dealers from Smith’s two earlier films. Yes, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) return here, this time for a single scene where Silent Bob, once again, explains things in clear terms so that characters can stop circling around the plot and finally allow it to advance. If you haven’t seen Clerks or Mallrats, you won’t have any idea who these people are or why they’re important, but then again, you won’t get many of the references throughout.

Kevin Smith seems to think he’s done something special with his films, as he always includes references to his earlier works. There are a lot of them scattered throughout Chasing Amy as well, and while that will be good for Smith aficionados, it’ll leave an unaware audience shaking their heads not only because they don’t get it, but also because it portrays Smith as someone who thinks way too highly of himself (assuming they realize that they’re all in-jokes). Without the context of earlier films, there will be no appreciation. This limits the target audience somewhat, I think.

Chasing Amy is ultimately a fun film, even if it’s more for those of you who enjoyed Kevin Smith’s earlier films, as only you will get and truly appreciate the references. This is a funny and sweet film, although I was never quite sure what it was trying to say. A lot of topics are brought up, but like the kid who got cold feet before his marriage, the film never follows through with any of them, which left me disappointed.

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