More often than not, romantic comedies oversimplify romance. The writers
whip up one big problem for the star-crossed lovers, milk it for its
comic possibilities, then have one of the lead characters make an
impassioned speech after which the couple kisses passionately and lives
happily ever after. "Chasing Amy" is a romantic comedy that doesn't
oversimplify. This extremely funny, well-written film tells the story of
a very complicated romance with many revelations, but no easy answers.
Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee) are best friends and creators
of a thriving comic book. At a comic convention, Holden meets fellow
artist Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and the two hit it off immediately. In
short order, Holden falls in love with Alyssa and begins charting their
future, failing to notice that Alyssa is a lesbian. When he finds out, he
pursues her anyway, as his best friend stares in frustration and
"Chasing Amy" was written and directed by Kevin Smith, who also made
"Clerks" and "Mallrats." Smith has a real gift for creating dialogue that
dazzles, but still rings true. "Chasing Amy" discusses sexuality in far
more explicit terms than any film in recent memory, but the words never
seem cheap or contrived. Smith uses the extremely frank dialogue to paint
a detailed portrait of the politics of love and sex. In the process, he
creates some memorable characters.
Ben Affleck, who stars in the upcoming "Going All The Way," is compelling
as Holden, an artist who fancies himself a radical, but possesses a
staunchly traditional value system that undermines his attempts at
extremism. Jason Lee, playing Holden's partner and devoted best friend,
steals scenes with his sharp tongue, smoldering anger and sexy eyes. As
Alyssa, Joey Lauren Adams has the film's most complex character. Alyssa
isn't the kind of cookie-cutter lesbian you generally see in movies. Over
the course of the story, more and more layers of her personal and sexual
history are revealed, and we get a sense of the true strength of this
young artist's character. Adams, in a performance reminiscent of Renee
Zellweger's in "Jerry Maguire," shows us a woman who initially appears to
be a bubbly lightweight, but in fact has a much more realized sense of
self than any of the other characters.
"Chasing Amy" is the funniest film I've seen so far this year, and easily
the most touching. The explicit dialogue may leave you feeling a bit
squirmy from time to time, and that's a good thing. Romantic comedies
rarely even flirt with truth. "Chasing Amy" deals with truths you may not
wish to consider, opening doors that some feel are better left closed.
The film is funny, romantic, and a bit challenging. Go see it.
Copyright © 1997 Edward Johnson-Ott