Back in the 90’s Kevin Smith was a real force to be reckoned with. He hit it big with Clerks, a film with almost no budget but plenty of laughs, Mallrats was an even bigger if not as funnier film, but it wasn’t nearly as smart or ingenious.Then came Chasing Amy, which to this day remains the most accomplished work of Smith’s long career.
Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) are two comic-book artists, who live in New Jersey and have been best friends for 20 years. They spend their time working in their studio, and in the evenings they are going out. But their friendship is about to be disputed for the first time in their life, when a beautiful young lesbian woman named Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) enters their life and Holden falls in love with her. Now Holden has to deal with Banky’s jealousy, and with his new girlfriend’s very rich past.
Chasing Amy is a smartly written, funny and at times emotional dramedy that in my opinion ranks as Kevin Smith’s best film to date. The script is intelligent and the characters are believable. Like the characters in Clerks they act and talk like real people which makes them easy to connect with. The subject is delicate, but Kevin Smith handles it very well. The film is also quite possibly the most serious film of Kevin Smith’s career and has more drama and conflict than any of his other films. The first half of the film plays out like a normal romantic comedy but in the second half Smith antes up the drama and the film gets surprisingly emotional and I will say it has a lot of heart. The acting further elevates this film and Smith really knows how to get good performances from his actors. Ben Affleck, in one of his early performances is very good as the goatee-wearing Holden McNeil. Jason Lee offers great support as his homophobic buddy, Banky but it’s Joey Lauren Adams who steals the show as the titular Amy. It’s a revelatory performance, one that probably should have gotten her oscar recognition as well.
The dialogue is excellent. It’s raunchy and quirky but it can be thoughtful when it wants to. Kevin Smith also possesses this great ability where he can translate the simplest conversations among his characters into some of the film’s best moments, it’s all in the writing. I will say, that one area where this film lacks in is the direction. By which I mean, it’s uninspiring and vapid. Kevin Smith’s direction has absolutely no style or flare, this movie could have been directed by anyone and it wouldn’t have made a great difference. His ideas are impressive but his visual style is so unambitious. However, I still feel that the writing and performances do enough for this film that Smith’s short-comings as a director are largely be over-shadowed and all together Chasing Amy is a funny, moving and surprisingly heartfelt film that also ranks as the most measured and mature work of Kevin Smith’s career.