Chasing Amy

Kevin Smith grabs the audience immediately, and hilariously, right from the opening scene of Chasing Amy and doesn’t ever ease up on the throttle.

The story is about Holden (Ben Affleck) a likable, good looking, guy who seemingly floats through his life as a comic book artist with his best friend, his tracer, or inker if you want to be respectful, Banky (Jason Lee).

The two, not unlike Smith, write a comic Called BluntMan and Chronic which is basically about a stoner version of Batman and Robin who walk around telling “Dick and Fart jokes” while catching crime.

Do not be repelled by this, instead, see it for what it really is.  This is not just any film for Smith.  It is that one story that every artist tells.  The story of “that” woman. For lack of a less cliché term, the one that got away.  And as any good nerd knows “There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature” (Lawrence Durell).  Since literature isn’t the most solid investment, Smith wisely chose to turn Amy into a film.  And what a film he created.

The film opens at a comic convention.  This is where we are introduced to Holden, Banky, the quasi-titular Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and the hilariously perfect Hooper X (Dwight Ewell).

After a spat with a fan (the other half of Kevin Smith’s producing team, Scott Mosier), Banky and Holden sit in on a minority panel where Hooper is delivering a lecture on his book Whitey Hating Coon, a book meant to provide empowerment to the African American community.

What ensues is a hilarious discourse, which starts with a debate about the racist undertones of Star Wars, and ends with blanks being fired and Banky faking his death in front of a room full of people.  At this point the audience is let in on the act and it is revealed that Hooper, is a friend.  It is also revealed that his heavy anti-white propaganda is fake, that he’s gay, and that he has a friend, Alyssa Jones.

Holden is immediately drawn to something in Alyssa, and when asked if he and Banky can join Hooper and Alyssa for drinks before heading back to Jersey, he jumps at the opportunity.

At the bar Holden quickly realizes that whatever it is between Alyssa and himself, it is something serious.  There’s just one problem… she’s a lesbian.

What ensues is a series of events in which Holden tries to remove himself from the dreaded friend zone.  Along the way the audience is treated to an overwhelming amount of wit, humour, and montage sequences, all of which culminate in a rain-drenched heart-felt speech.

This film is arguably Smith’s most complete piece of work.  It may not be as laugh-out-loud funny as either of the Clerks flics, but it has so much heart.  Rarely can a movie make you genuinely care about its characters, while evoking fits of laughter, but Smith accomplishes this with Amy.

This is because Smith did not write jokes or standup premises.  Smith created characters that are funny, and tragic, and complete.  They don’t need to say “knock knock” because who they are as people is funny.  I’ve heard Smith say somewhere that when he started making Clerks he didn’t realize it as a comedy.  It was, and so is Amy, but not because Smith is desperate to make people laugh.  They are comedies because Smith is a funny person.  It is infused into who he is as a person, and he granted the same gift to his characters.  If Amy was a game of show and tell, there would be very little telling, and a lot of showing.

Nearly lost in the strong script is the strong acting.  There is a general hatred for Ben Affleck in the film community, and while this is changing as of late, it was largely undeserved.  Sure, some of his projects, Gigli, Paycheck, and Daredevil do deserve scorn, but his early work is so strong.  And this is his strongest.  Seriously though, ignore everything from 2000-2004 and then re-examine Affleck’s career.

Not to be out-done, Jason Lee is pitch perfect as the snarky sidekick.  One scene in particular, a scene that Smith masochistically drew out with out any cuts-scenes, shows off the brilliant chemistry that Lee and Affleck have.  And it’s a good thing too.  Had the scene been shot multi-camera or cut to facial close-ups in an attempt to manufacture emotion, it would not have been as brutally honest and painfull as it was.

Ewell as Hooper, also gives a brilliant two-faced performance that some how escapes accolade, while Adams charms as the love interest with depth and a life of her own, something that is rare to find in movies.

Smith holds a camera to himself with Amy and paints a portrait of a tragic anti-villain.  Something that is not easy to do but it is necessary to tell this story.

Basically, This film is Annie Hall, without the excuse of neurosis.  That is not a bad thing.  It is tragic, you can see the downfall of the characters coming, and you pray it will not come.  The only difference is that you can easily see yourself as the lovable Holden, and that is a scary fact.

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