The Orlando Weekly

There's no wondering what the characters in writer-director Kevin Smith's "Chasing Amy" are thinking, because they spend a great deal of screen time verbalizing about their feelings. And just in case anyone may have missed their declarations the first time around, Smith makes sure each point is repeated at least a few times.

This tendency to overtalk, along with a bare-bones visual style, shows Smith to be a stronger writer than director. But the advantage of having him behind the camera is that his script, which straddles a fine line between serious and flippant, might have struck the wrong chord in other hands.

There is no one actually named Amy in the film, but the lost love bearing her name is the subject of a poignant tale told by an unlikely source--Silent Bob (Smith himself). It's Bob, too, whose adventures with his hyper, trash-talking buddy Jay (Jason Mewes) are the basis for the film's cult comic book series, Bluntman & Chronic.

Written and drawn by lifelong friends Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee), Bluntman & Chronic are being considered for their own animated series. "Chasing Amy" opens at a comic book convention, where Holden and Banky meet and greet fans and mingle with their peers, including Hooper (Dwight Ewell), a black, gay artist who affects a militant persona to promote his own series, "White-Hating Coon."

Hooper's discussion of the racist subtext of the "Star Wars" films showcases Smith's cheeky cleverness and skill at milking pop culture for unexpected meanings. Yet he has something serious in mind. The partnership between the easygoing affable Holden and the snarky, misanthropic Banky is about to be tested by the appearance of Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams, like a helium-voiced, twentysomething Ellen Barkin).

The alluring Alyssa immediately grabs Holden's attention. But there's a catch to their clinch: She prefers women. "Chasing Amy" indulges in some lip service to gender politics (including a trenchant commentary by Hooper), but the lesbian angle turns out to be a red herring. Holden and Alyssa's eventual love affair--and love is definitely what they're in--is derailed by his inability to truly accept her.

Smith makes some obvious cinematic choices, such as having an argument in a a hockey rink punctuated by a fight among players on the ice. He also want to have his cake and eat it too, by having Banky and Alyssa hilariously compare scars from sexual encounters. (Reminiscent of the explicit riffing "Clerks," it's actually an outtake from Smith's sanitized second film, "Mallrats.") But with its unexpected and bittersweet turns and heartbreaking performances from Affleck and Adams (even the scene stealing Lee), "Chasing Amy" is Kevin Smith's most fully realized and mature film.