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Chasing Amy

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Chasing Amy

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jason Lee
Director: Kevin Smith
Rated: R
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: April 1997
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Joey Lauren Adams, Dwight Ewell, Carmen Lee, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
3 stars out of 4

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 disbelief.

"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

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