Monday, 21 September 2015

Chasing Amy

Title:  Chasing Amy
Director:  Kevin Smith
Released:  1997
Starring: Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Ethan Suplee, Casey Affleck, Jason Mewes Brian O’Halloran, Matt Damon

Plot: New Jersey comic book artists and lifelong friends Holden (Affleck) and Banky (Lee) are on the verge of breaking into the comic book mainstream with their “Bluntman and Chronic” comic book. However things look set to fall apart when Holden falls for Alyssa (Adams), a lesbian who Holden can’t help himself in pursuing even at the risk of his friendship with Banky.


Review:  Possibly the most underrated film on Kevin Smith’s directing C.V. perhaps alongside “Jersey Girl” both of which even now stand out from the rest of his films even if they are closer to the tone of his “View Askewniverse” than the likes of “Tusk” and “Red State” which no doubt would rate higher for most Smith fans. Perhaps because they are more emotionally based than the usual brand of pop culture infused onslaughts we have come to expect from him.

If anything this film is certainly one of his most controversial film even with various religious parties not taking too kindly to “Dogma”, it would be his portrayal of the lesbian community let alone the fact he’d made a film in which Holden is able to convert a lesbian which wouldn’t sit well with many, even with Smith calling this film his Sci-fi movie because “You ask any lesbian and there is no way that’s going to happen” he said when questioned about the films message during his first “An Evening With Kevin Smith” DVD. It is also worth noting that many of these digs at the community come from the films idiot in this case Banky and as such essentially lessens how seriously such comments should be taken, especially when they frequently to be being made as a form of self-defence as he finds himself unable to deal with Alyssa affecting his relationship with Holden.

Released following the critical and financial flop which was “Mallrats” which has since gone onto achieving like so many of Smith’s films a cult status. Looking to create something a little closer to his original breakout film “Clerks”. However despite Miramax owners (at the time) Bob and Harvey Weinstein liking the idea they wanted to cast Jon Stewart, David Schwimmer and Drew Barrymore as opposed to Smith’s cast choices which despite not having the same star power as Miramax’s casting choices would enable him to work with his friends who he’s written the film with them in mind. Refusing to fund a film featuring the cast Smith wanted he instead was given a budget of $250,000 (1/24 of his budget for “Mallrats”) with Miramax choosing on if they would distribute the film depending on if they liked it which luckily for Smith they did.

 A unique romantic comedy to say the least, not only because of its lesbian seduction angle but also because here we have a film which features a openly gay black comic book writer who taps into racial tensions to sell more copies of his book, a porn obsessed sidekick with no filter and Smith usual alternative takes on pop culture which includes an argument for “Archie” being gay. However despite this it is still a film with a lot of heart while the relationship between Holden and Alyssa is truly a genuine one and not about looking for cheap shock tactics as it would seem that Smith truly wasn’t aiming to shock but perhaps in some way give another nod to his openly gay brother which he has confessed to doing numerous times in the past, having felt that the gay community were never represented or catered to in movies.

It’s equally interesting that the main issue that Holden and Alyssa face is not in fact her sudden change in sexuality but rather Holden struggling to deal with Alyssa’s proud sexual experimentation, a concern which is only further fuelled by Banky’s intense investigation into her past and in particular how she earned the nickname “Finger cuffs”. Its also interesting that the moment of clarity comes from Silent Bob here, who gives one of his best speeches here as he shares his own experiences of being in Holden’s situation and in many ways represents the fact that help often comes from the least likely of places….in this case a largely mute sidekick.  Here though sexual experimentation is something that is embraced regardless of gender with Banky and Alyssa giving a fun spin on the classic war wounds scene from “Jaws” here trading oral sex injuries instead in an equally scene and one of the few warmer moments they share.

For the established fans the film adds further to Smith’s “View Askewniverse” with connections once again being made to his earlier films. At the same time though some of these links really add some interesting new spins to things such as Shannon (played also by Affleck) from “Mallrats” is named as being a guy who taped himself having sex with Alyssa only to them broadcast the tape on the college campus station, which makes it only the more fitting that the same thing would happen to him in “Mallrats”. Elsewhere Adam’s previous character Gwen in “Mallrats” is also named amongst her sexual experiences. Unfortunately perhaps in a lapse he also names the bookish and shy girlfriend of T.S., Brandi Svenning from “Mallrats” during the sexual injuries scene which adds a whole new (and out of character) angle to her character, though a stumble that Smith no doubt got away with thanks to most audience members not paying that much attention. I know I only on this viewing noticed it and that again was more to do with the fact that I had recently covered “Mallrats” on the “MBDS Showcase” and hence had the name still fresh in my mind.

As Smith has relied more and more on fart and dick jokes to drive his films, this film remains like “Dogma” a nice reminder of what he is capable of when he engages his smarter side which gave us “Clerks” than just taking the easier route to the laughs. It of course only makes it the sadder as his career has progressed that he has only moved further away from making these kinds of films, but hopefully one day he will remember how to write these kinds of films.

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