Chasing Amy (1997) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexuality, language and some drug references
Running Time: 113 min.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ethan Suplee, Matt Damon, Guinevere Turner, Casey Affleck, Mike Allred (cameo), Joe Quesada (cameo)
Director: Kevin Smith
Screenplay: Kevin Smith
Review published January 16, 2001
Without a doubt, Chasing Amy ranks as Kevin Smith's best work to date, both as a writer and director. Coming off of his ambitious but critically panned Mallrats, itís a good thing, as it probably saved his career. The success of Chasing Amy is aided immensely by having a much higher caliber of acting that in previous outings, along with a more subtle use of humor, eschewing the typical Kevin Smith asides that take us out of the moment for the sake of a quick and easy laugh. Smith earns every laugh he gets, and even when the story contrives some weird twists, the humor and moments of drama are well worth suspending disbelief for.
The story starts off with two best friends, Holden (Affleck, Good Will Hunting) and Banky (Lee, Kissing a Fool), who are also creative partners working on a popular comic book called "Bluntman and Chronic". While at a comic convention, Holden meets a fellow comic creator, Alyssa (Adams, Big Daddy), with whom he is instantly smitten with, which wouldnít be nearly as bad if Alyssa wasnít also an avowed lesbian. Despite the frustration on Holdenís part, the two become good friends, although Holden finds it impossible to keep himself from falling for Alyssa. He comes out with his feelings, which stirs up newfound feelings within Alyssa, but doubts in the potential relationship seem to be a stumbling block.
Although it is turbulent at times, this is still quite consistently well directed by Smith, with Ben Affleck in particular shining in his first major lead role. Smithís writing is also crisp, although there are occasional lapses where he goes for obvious gags to keep the comedy quotient up. Where Smith comes into his own with Chasing Amy is in the development of well-rounded characters, and conversations that are funny, pithy, and even emotional enough to generate interest, culminating in a satisfying payoff during the climactic scenes.
If I have one gripe, it is in the casting of Joey Lauren Adams as Alyssa, for the simple reason that this savvy, sophisticated role is in conflict with Adamsí naÔve, sweet-natured personality. Adams still does a commendable job as an actress, although others might have been more of a natural fit. Being Smithís girlfriend at the time was probably the clincher on her getting the role.
Chasing Amy can be a little sloppy and edgy at times, but all in all, it is done with such unique insight, that the fresh and interesting commentaries on relationships ultimate raises the level from being merely entertaining to being thoughtful, sincere and smart. A few more of these under his belt, and Smith will finally live up to the potential of his popularity.
©2001 Vince Leo