Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy poster

From the Quick Stop in Clerks to the mall in Mallrats, Kevin Smith finally set his sights beyond small town New Jersey (sort of) in this third film, 1997’s Chasing Amy.

Returning somewhat to the indie sensibility of Clerks when compared to the broader style of Mallrats, this sees Smith tackle a slightly different genre once again, in his own way, in the form of a sort of edgy romantic comedy but with plenty of his usual tropes in place.

Again we start the film by meeting a pair of straight white men (this being even more important here) in the form of comic book authors and lifelong friends Holden McNeill (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) who have a very similar relationship to that seen between Dante & Randall or Brodie & TS in the previous films.

Chasing Amy - Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams
Affleck and Adams

Along with them we soon meet fellow ‘funny book’ writers Hooper (Dwight Ewell) and most importantly Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a name that might be familiar if you were paying attention in the previous movies as, once again, there are characters and locations that very much overlap.

From there we chart the developing relationship between Holden and Alyssa and the effect it has on them and their friends with the added complication of Jones being gay and McNeill really struggling to deal with that.

Chasing Amy - Ben Affleck and Jason Lee
Affleck and Lee

Given when it was written and who it was written by it’s not surprising that certain elements of all of this aren’t dealt with particularly subtly and, I suspect, were problematic even in the late 90s and in places certainly are now (I’m not sure how a gen-z audience would respond to this film as it feels very of it’s time in it’s sensibility) but with this, much as with Clerks, comes a certain ring of truth finding it’s way through Smith’s ever overwrought dialogue.

Along with this it is genuinely exceptionally funny at times showing that Smith was more than capable of finding the balance between the simple ‘let’s just make a movie’ feel of his debut and the somewhat over ‘shiny’ and (for want of a better word) ‘mainstream’ feel of the follow up.

Chasing Amy - Joey Lauren Adams and Dwight Ewell
Adams and Ewell

Again the bulk of the funny stuff goes to Lee as Banky, though Hooper adds a new wrinkle to the formula as a black, gay writer finding a balance between his public persona and his private one which somewhat mirrors the issues of the main story.

Affleck meanwhile does something similar to Brian O’Halloran as Dante in Clerks balancing being insufferable and somewhat foolish with, if not being sympathetic, then at least relatable, and doing a good job of it, while also doing a great job of finding the heart of Smith’s words.

Chasing Amy - Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith
Jason Mewes and Smith

Adams as Jones is also terrific, matching Affleck in finding the truth of the dialogue while feeling like a real character even if this clearly comes from a male view, though at no point does it really feel like Smith is trying to say he knows the experience of her character directly.

One of the highlight scenes of the film though goes to Silent Bob (Smith once again), but to say much more would spoil things if you’ve not seen it, but it’s interesting to hear Smith’s dialogue coming from his own mouth as this is, I think, the characters high point to date.

Chasing Amy - Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee
Affleck, Adams and Lee

While it doesn’t quite have the certain inexplicable something of Clerks, Chasing Amy remains another strong part of Smith’s oeuvre which again captures something of its time in a way that remains great to look back on and, I think, still probably has something to say today while also being a very funny movie in its own right and a good way to spend a couple of hours, despite the odd problematic moment in its gender and sexuality politics.

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