Chasing Amy [retro review]

“What’s a Nubian?”

The Scoop: 1997 R, directed by Kevin Smith and starring Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee

Tagline: It’s not who you love. It’s how.

Summary Capsule: Guy finds perfect girl who isn’t so perfect… and neither is he.


Justin’s Rating: Chasing Amy 2: GLADD vs. Anyone Who Looks At Them Sideways

Justin’s Review: I’ve been gradually passing out of my college mentality since my graduation and moving into something akin to adulthood, except that I still play video games quite a bit. And honestly, while some of my favorite college-era flicks remain near and dear to me, others are falling by the wayside. Kevin Smith’s Jersey Trilogy just isn”t played as often anymore at my place. Maybe that’s because they became too popular for its cult cloak, but I think it’s just because I’m moving on somewhat (ironic, too, that Smith himself has ended the series and is now embarking on more “adult” projects. No, not porn.).

Back in college, the main appeal of movies like Chasing Amy was its sheer outrageous dialogue — which mixed Star Wars, sex, and just about anything you’ve heard in a locker room — and the dark humor of rundown America. We’d show these flicks to shock friends, and to see them laugh out loud even as they’re going, “Geez… I can’t believe they said that!” Nowadays, who am I going to shock? I mean, what’s the point anymore? Sooner or later we grow up past the stage of liking crass just because it shocks (unless, of course, you’re Howard Stern or Martha Stewart), and desire a bit more substance for our buck.

I’ve always felt that Chasing Amy is the least funny and most depressing out of any Smith’s ventures (although a couple scenes are riotous, such as the comic book convention and the scar-comparing scene). Like Dante said about The Empire Strikes Back in Clerks, it’s a series of down endings. Comic book artists and best friends Banky (Jason “Beardy” Lee) and Holden (Ben “Goatee” Affleck) find their friendship put to the test when they face creative differences, not to mention when a new girl enters Holden’s life: Alyssa (Joey “Not Reneé Zellweger” Lauren Adams), who is friendly, fun, and gay. Everything gets interesting for a while, then implodes like a hollow wedding cake soon thereafter.

Big, big hoopla is made out of this film over the whole lesbian thing. GLADD gave it its official endorsement, saying that Chasing Amy is pro-gay. Some people got upset thinking that the film was about a man’s power to call a lesbian back to the light side of the force. Some people got confused — was Alyssa a lesbian, bisexual, or what? Maybe even some people thought that this film encapsulated man’s greatest fear: falling in love with an unattainable woman. Who knows. Who cares. It’s honestly NOT the point of the movie. If you get caught up in the homosexual aspect (including the horrible end confrontation scene — yeah, you out there wincing know what I’m talking about), then you’re missing out on what’s important here.

So while I used to find Chasing Amy depressing — and I still do — I think it contains one of the most powerful messages about love and relationships you’ll find on film. I’ve spoken to a lot of friends who have identified strongly with this film, and it’s not because they’re conflicted bisexuals or secretly taming lions at night or anything. It’s because this movie boldly addresses one of the primary weaknesses of relationships: our ability as humans to get caught up on the stuff that doesn’t matter.

Now, sex matters. I’m not going to lie, you’re not going to listen anyway. But unless you’re the most shallow person on this planet, sitting around idolizing Seinfeld, you know that a good relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife goes far beyond physical intimacy. There’s trust, communication, nit picking, listening, loyalty, and other things that don’t bring full frontal nudity to the screen, which is why they’re not as often addressed in film. But the tragedy in Chasing Amy comes after Holden and Alyssa start this great and powerful relationship, when Holden discovers something about Alyssa’s past that he just can’t get over.

We’ve all done stuff in our past we’re not proud of, and Alyssa is admirable in her honesty and desire to concentrate on what’s important, here and now. Strangely enough, the person who feels he is most wronged is the person who is dishing out the most harm, as Holden’s obsession with her past makes her feel unwanted and dirty. We see the basic precepts of love break down: the Bible says that love is forgiving, it puts the past in the past, it is always kind, and it perseveres. Having gained the most precious thing in the world, Holden wants to throw it away the first minute that he learns that human beings aren’t perfect.

This is why everyone should identify with Alyssa AND Holden in this film. We’re all the ones who want to be loved for who we are, right here, right now, and have our past forgiven and forgotten… and we’re all the ones who sometimes let stupid little things stand in the way between us and caring for the people we love. Kevin Smith points the finger at us all, and it’s really that simple. When you love someone, it’s time to grow up a little, or else you’re just a kid kicking and screaming at reality.


PoolMan’s Rating: I have no idea how to rate this… it was so great.

PoolMan’s Review: Let me be frank. I try to be as sensitive as the next guy. I will watch any romantic comedy with any woman at least once, and on occasion, I have been known to enjoy them. But for the most part, I find there’s a terribly predictable plot coupled with oversimplified characters, and a little witty banter to boot. You have a gorgeous heroine who would inspire any man in the audience to eat his right leg if it meant he would meet her in the hospital, and a goofy hero who desperately wants to make her fall in love with him (ie. shag like a mynx, baby, yeah!). Boooooring.

But I say to you, that is NOT what Chasing Amy is about. For once, someone took the idea of making a movie about two people falling in love, and broke every single stereotypical movie model known to man in the process. The hero is easily hung up on things that shouldn’t bother him, making him much more tragically flawed than your usual romance flick dude. The heroine is a beautiful woman, but she is proudly gay (although I would still consider that leg eating thing to meet her). Hell, homosexuality oozes from this movie. And yet, it works for it, not against it. Watching the struggle between Holden and Alyssa as they both over come their fears and prejudices to fall in love with each other feels special, like you’re actually a part of these strangers’ lives. During the big speech at the end, I was so drawn into the dialogue and the genuine, sincere acting, that when the inevitable slap came, I nearly jumped out of my chair!

And that’s what firmed up my opinion. This movie is so sincere, so raw, it reminds me of how I felt the last time I fell in love. It was that involved and honest, and I was that engrossed. And the best part? It wasn’t a standard, army-issue romantic comedy. Actually, the d**k, breast, gay, black power, and sex jokes fly like the wind in this film, without drawing away from its amazing integrity (I didn’t know what lesbians apparently do for “special occasions”… I’m not sure I wanted to, but what a trip finding out!). What a cool movie.

A trio? A threesome? Something like that.

Intermission!

  • The sex scars-comparing scene is an homage to the scars-comparing scene in Jaws (and to a lesser extent, Lethal Weapon 3)
  • Make sure not to miss a few cameos in this flick: Brian O’Halloran (from Clerks) and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, and one of Ben Affleck’s close friends) are studio execs.
  • Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and Joey Lauren Adams were all in Mallrats as well.
  • Ethan Suplee as a comic book fan… he was the Sailboat guy in Mallrats.
  • Ben Affleck’s little brother Casey plays the little kid.
  • You can see the camera crew in a shop window when Holden is walking back to his car in the rain
  • When Silent Bob gives his “chasing Amy” speech, Jay does not know what he is talking about. But as they leave the table, Jay is upset with Bob for “always telling that story.”
  • The actor who plays Rick Derris was sitting by Holden and Alyssa in the hockey rink
  • Alyssa’s girlfriend was Jason Lee’s real-life wife
  • As in Mallrats, Kevin Smith throws a couple of funny notes into the credits.  Also, Jay and Silent Bob have a closing scene.
  • The film stemmed from Kevin and Joey’s real-life relationship, although many details (including her being a lesbian) were added for the film. They were dating at the time the film was made, but have broken up since.
  • Kevin Smith on whether or not Banky is gay: “No – Banky is not gay. He would never cruise, nor would he have ever actively pursued Holden of his own accord. However, he does love his friend. Very deeply. Life comes down to moments. In the moment that Holden makes his off-kilter suggestion, Banky was willing to go the distance – a window is opened, and in that moment, Banky agrees to a same sex encounter of sorts. When Alyssa declines, that window is slammed closed. But Banky’s already exposed something that he can’t live with – Holden’s knowledge that he would’ve gone through with it (for whatever reasons, whether it be to save their relationship, or because he was into it). That’s why they’re no longer friends by the end of the flick – Banky’s self-loathing. So is Banky gay? It’s not that easily defined.”
  • The hand signals at the end of the film explained: The scene goes like this: Holden gives Banky the thumbs up for Baby Dave. Banky then motions with his head towards the table where Alyssa is sitting and gives the ‘shared moment’ hand gesture. Holden then shows Banky his crossed fingers as if to say “I hope so” – in regards to getting back with Alyssa.
  • The graphic novel ‘Chasing Dogma’ (which details how Jay and Silent Bob got from the mall in Mallrats to Linda Farentino’s car in Chasing Dogma, with a quick stop at a certain diner in Chasing Amy) reveals that Trisha is working on a new edition of ‘Boregasm’; more importantly, it also reveals that she’s the younger sister of Alyssa. [thanks Vanessa!]

Groovy Quotes

Holden: Even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I am forever changed because of who you are and what you meant to me.

Banky: So you like girls… does that mean you just look at yourself naked in the mirror all day long?

Kid: Could you sign my comic?
Hooper: (Pointing at Holden) See that man there? He’s the devil, you understand? Never take your eye of the Man. Fight the power, little G.
Kid: Word is bond.

Jay: I’m people that know people.

Hooper: You got cracker farm boy Luke Skywalker, Nazi poster boy, blond hair, blue eyes. And then you got Darth Vader, the blackest brother in the galaxy, Nubian god!
Banky: What’s a Nubian?

Holden: So, uh, what do you wanna do tonight?
Banky: Mmm, get a pizza, watch “Degrassi Jr. High.”
Holden: You got a weird thing for Canadian melodrama.
Banky: I got a weird thing for girls who say “aboot.”

Silent Bob: Did you know I always wanted to be a dancer in Vegas?

[Alyssa on the phone with Holden after she paged him.]
Alyssa: One minute and five seconds; you are such my bitch.

Banky: Hey, I always notice that bored look in their eyes.

Alyssa: Are you an authorized dealmaker in this establishment? Do you have the power to negotiate?

[On his lovemaking approach]
Banky: Like CNN and the Weather Channel: constant updates.

Alyssa: So, you’ve never been curious about men?
Holden: Curious about men? Well, I always wondered why my father watched Hee Haw.

Alyssa: Why are we stopping?
Holden: Because I can’t take this.
Alyssa: Can’t take what?
Holden: I love you.
Alyssa: You love me?
Holden: I love you. And not, not in a friendly way, although I think we’re great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy-dog way, although I’m sure that’s what you’ll call it. I love you. Very, very simple, very truly. You are the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being. And I know that you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is the furthest thing from an option you would ever consider. But I had to say it. I just, I can’t take this anymore. I can’t stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can’t, I can’t look into your eyes without feeling that, that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can’t talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. And I know this will probably queer our friendship–no pun intended–but I had to say it, because I’ve never felt this way before, and I don’t care. I like who I am because of it. And if bringing this to light means we can’t hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But God, I just, I couldn’t allow another day to go by without just getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shoot-down. And, you know, I’ll accept that. But I know…I know that some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there is a moment of hesitation, then that means you feel something too. All I ask, please, is that you just, you just not dismiss that – and try to dwell in it for just ten seconds. Alyssa, there isn’t another soul on this planet who has ever made me half the person I am when I’m with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau. Because it is there between you and me. You can’t deny that. Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I’m forever changed because of who you are and what you’ve meant to me, which–while I do appreciate it–I’d never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.

Holden: It’s not who you love, it’s how.

Silent Bob: But, by the time I figured this all out, it was too late; she moved on. And all I had to show for it was some foolish pride which then gave way to regret. She was the girl. I know that now. But, I pushed her away. So I’ve spend every day since then chasing Amy. So to speak.

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10 Comments

  1. LESBIAN DOUBLE STANDARD: This week we had in-laws over for dinner. Inspired by Chuck we made our own pizzas, including a goat cheese, roasted butternut squash, arugula, olive oil pie…yum! yum! Anyway, over dinner conversation my wife was telling Grandma & Grandpa about how we got a free subscription to Showtime, and that we’re recording ‘The L Word‘, a drama about lesbians. My wife observed: “How come we hear about women who are sick of men and start dating other women? But we never hear a man say, ‘I’m sick of women! I think I’ll start dating men!’”

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