The Thrill of the "Chase"
(A Review of "Chasing Amy" By Timothy Scott)

After watching "Clerks" or "Mallrats" you would think that Kevin Smith had been passed the torch from John Hughes or John Landis as king of the adolescent farce. Granted, "Clerks" was certainly more substantive than Smith"s sophomore effort. In fact, "Mallrats" in a word, could only be described as sophomoric. But Kevin Smith"s latest film, "Chasing Amy" takes us to new territory in his continuing chronicles of New Jersey "twentysomethings." By the closing credits, it"s obvious even Smith himself has discovered new territory.

The film presents an intriguing albeit semi-credible "love triangle" between two comic book artists, Holden and Banky and the object of Holden"s affection, fellow comic book artist, Alyssa. Holden and Banky have been friends for 20 years and also happen to be the creative team behind a successful "book" (don"t call it a "comic") called "Bluntman & Chronic" (Inspired by the scene-stealing fan faves, Jay & Silent Bob aka Kevin Smith, who make an appropriately brief but pivotal cameo). Holden meets Alyssa at a comic book convention and is immediately smitten (By the way, "Chasing Amy"s" opening scene is one of the funniest in recent memory). The tension begins when, after Holden senses a spark between the two, he learns that Alyssa likes women.

Now you might think with a premise like this that you"d be in for a dozen clich"s about what women really want and the right guy who can give it to them. Well, to some extent you"d be right. But "Chasing Amy" puts a very clever twist on that mentality as Smith develops what is basically just a love story about an immature, insecure man and an experienced, confident woman. In fact, I"d go so far as to call it a "love letter" to his real-life girlfriend, Joey Lauren Adams who plays Alyssa.

The first thing I noticed about this film is that half the cast of "Mallrats" star in this film and there"s virtually no comparison between their performances from one film to the next. In "Mallrats," Jason Lee (in the only breakout performance in the film) seemed to be doing Chevy Chase as a Gen X slacker. It was fun to watch him mainly because you got the feeling he wasn"t really acting (He"d never acted before). But as "Banky" we actually feel a sensitive character to go along with his natural delivery of Smith"s punchy, colorful dialogue.

But the real discoveries here are the leads. I had my doubts that Ben Affleck and Joey Adams could handle these characters with the integrity called for in Smith"s profoundly thoughtful screenplay. I hate to spoil plots so I"m not going to reveal all the "whats" and "hows." The real point here is that "Chasing Amy" is not a film about falling in love with a homosexual. "Chasing Amy" is a film about falling in love. I don"t think anyone would get the idea that Kevin Smith is well-connected to the gay community. The fact that Alyssa is gay is almost irrelevant. Kevin Smith is speaking to the same audience he"s always spoken to: 18 to 25 year old single men, with one foot still in puberty, educated primarily by pop-culture.

I believe Smith has unintentionally made a film about the way men view love, sex, women and even other men. Through Holden he exposes male insecurity and male hypocrisy. He reveals the truth that a man who loves strongly doesn"t necessarily love wisely. But through Alyssa, Smith demonstrates a powerful lesson for all men - women are human beings. Women have their own lives, feel their own pains, and make their own choices. As men we must respect women as the separate beings that they are. We must never assume that because they"re willing to make the vulnerable choice to love us, that they"re willing to compromise their own identities so we can discover ours.

Go see "Chasing Amy." I promise it will not only make you laugh out loud, it will genuinely touch you. But if you"ve seen "Clerks" or "Mallrats" then you will also see something else. You will see the growth of a filmmaker. It takes a lot of nerve to make a film that takes on subject matter most people would say you aren"t qualified to accurately portray. But Kevin Smith bravely takes on the challenge and the result is brutally personal and stunningly insightful. I think it"s safe to say that the next time "Silent Bob" speaks, he"ll have even more to say.