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Director Kevin Smith Matures with Chasing Amy
movie review by Gary Johnson

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the official
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for Chasing Amy

[rating: 3 of 4 stars]
Chasing Amy is the third installment in director Kevin Smith's New Jersey Trilogy, which began with Clerks and continued with Mallrats. While Clerks attracted much attention and even garnered awards at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, Mallrats was treated by critics as a sophomore jinx. But with Chasing Amy, Smith returns to form and even improves upon his previous work.

Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy.

Miramax Films. All rights reserved.)

Independently produced for $250,000 (a pittance by Hollywood's standard), Chasing Amy gives us the same bitingly-caustic slacker comedy that Smith honed in Clerks, but Smith ups the ante by building dramatic situations that let his characters put their guts on the line.

Chasing Amy is a much more sophisticated piece of work than Clerks, which charmed with its blunt, low-tech, in-your-face approach. In this round, Smith examines the obsessions and doubts that make friendships and romance difficult if not altogether impossible.

Like the lead character in Clerks who freaks out when he finds his girlfriend has had sex with 37 guys in the past, Chasing Amy gives us a lead character who freaks out when he finds out about his girlfriend's past. Smith is fascinated by how characters deal with the past sex lives of their partners. In this case, he gives us a self-professed lesbian, Alyssa, who starts hanging out with fellow comic book artist Holden. Holden is immediately smitten with Alyssa but what can he do? Is Alyssa actually a lesbian? Or is she simply conducting some sexual experimentation?

Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams in
Chasing Amy.

Miramax Films. All rights reserved.)

To complicate matters further, Holden's roommate, longtime buddy, and business partner, Banky (with whom he has created a popular comic book named "Bluntman and Chronic"), feels abandoned and betrayed. As Alyssa and Holden struggle to define their relationship, Banky struggles to hold onto Holden and their bachelor lifestyle.

In Chasing Amy, director Smith examines how our insecurities and experiences shape our actions. Banky, for example, is a tangle of prejudices, arrogance, and self-doubt. He speaks what he thinks, no matter how stupid it might sound: "Since you like chicks," he says to Alyssa, "do you like look at yourself in the mirror all the time?" But Holden can be just as stupid, as when he pushes Alyssa to talk about her sexual past--while they sit watching a hockey game!

Jason Mewes as Jay and Kevin Smith as Silent Bob in
Chasing Amy.

(©1997 Miramax Films. All rights reserved)

Most of the fun in watching Chasing Amy comes from the dialog. Smith's characters do little but sit around and talk, so if the dialog weren't so brutally honest and revealing--and funny--the movie would fail. But Smith's characters are always talking, in a virtually non-stop stream of diatribes, confessions, and monologues. In fact the characters talk so much and words flow so freely from their lips that the effect is slightly stylized. But instead of becoming artificial in its overabundance, the reams of dialog ultimately give the movie a heightened sense of reality, as we see the characters' fears and doubts clearly exposed--as if we can peer directly into their psyches.

And carrying Smith's words are a trio of fine actors. Joey Lauren Adams creates a genuinely charming Alyssa, a vivacious, sexually-experienced woman who exudes a little girl-like enthusiasm for life. Ben Affleck creates a perfectly-confused Holden. And Jason Lee (an ex-professional skateboardist) portrays the shockingly blunt Blanky. In addition, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith reprise their roles as Jay and Silent Bob from Clerks and Mallrats.

Chasing Amy is Smith's finest movie to date. It's the work of a director who is now beginning to mature as an artist, who isn't afraid to tackle the muddled politics of sexuality in the '90s.

A Miramax Films Presentation


HoldenBen Affleck
AlyssaJoey Lauren Adams
BankyJason Lee
HooperDwight Ewell
JayJason Mewes
Silent BobKevin Smith
KimCarmen Lee
Directed and Written byKevin Smith
Produced byScott Mosier
Director of PhotographyDavid Klein
Production DesignerRobert "Ratface" Holtzman
MusicDavid Pirner
Costume DesignerChristopher Del Coro
EditorKevin Smith
Scott Mosier
Associate ProducerRobert Hawke
Executive ProducerJohn Pierson
"Bluntman and Chronic" artwork byMike Allred
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