Saturday, March 30, 2013
A Week of Kevin Smith, Part Seven - "Chasing Amy"
Chasing Amy is probably one of the more complex films from Smith. Instead of the usual reliance on crass humor, we have a story about a boy chasing a girl who is completely wrong for him. Well, it's not quite that. Some people look at it as the movie about a guy chasing a girl who is into girls, but obviously it's not quite that.
It actually has layers that are easy to miss. For those who maybe have not had similar experiences in life, or maybe have not known people like this, this movie might come off as a little odd, or maybe even a little insulting. But I've had friends and have been in my own right involved in some interesting circumstances that parallel the events of this film. So, for me, I can't help but feel a level of authenticity, and it was this feeling that maybe made me one of Kevin Smith's biggest defenders.
I think that because this isn't a simple LGBT story, people can dismiss it. Though, I suppose a great many people did get it, because it's one of the more beloved and celebrated Smith films, and I like that. Because it's not the simple story of a heterosexual male, Holden (played, of course, by Ben Affleck) pursuing a homosexual girl, Alyssa (played by Joey Lauren Adams) people have found the movie to be disingenuous. But it's not fair. Number one, Alyssa is actually more of a sex addict, and a person who is confused. Boy howdy the number of female friends I've had in my life who have had struggles similar to Alyssa. And number two, it's a movie that lacks a simple ending. You don't see an obvious resolution in this film, and I'm happy about that. Because rarely are simple solutions offered in the real world. I suppose if you were to look at this as simply the story of boy-meets-lesbian (an insult phrase in my mind, so apologies for its use here) than you might get offended. But then you missed the point. Or the point as I saw it.
The strength of this film is the sexual confusion felt by the three leads (Affleck, Adams, and Jason Lee.) It's poignant and not something that many movies deal with. The dopey idiocy of Affleck's Holden in the third act of this movie, with his complete misunderstanding on how to deal with the dynamics of the relationships in play here is so honest to reality that it kind of made me hate myself for how I was in my late teens, going into my early twenties. I hate to use the word ignorance because it instantly conjures up images of toothless rednecks wanting to take voting rights away from minorities, and that's not the image I'm trying to inspire, but it is a form of at least misunderstanding the way he, and I in real life, didn't understand the complexities of people who were both confused by gender identity and sexual activity. I was Holden in so many ways in my life in a time that is still too recent in my mind for me to have forgiven myself.
I thought it would be interesting to see people's reactions to this film after all this time, especially as there is a generation of newcomers to the earlier Smith fare. And here is a new generation of people who missed the point of the movie, and the Alyssa character. It was fascinating at first, until it devolved into homophobic nonsense and horribly insulting diatribe.The one thing I noticed that people were complaining about was how she went from saying "I'm ****ing gay!" to suddenly making out with Ben Affleck. I will answer by pointing out that the biggest running theme of this movie is sexual confusion. A character who has spent the better part of her life completely wrapped in sexual encounters didn't know how to react to this situation. A great many people on various forums found her character to be the bad guy. That, my friends, is wrong. Holden was his own villain, and that's always been the point to me.
Before I end this review, I should point out something that has nothing to do with the themes or tone of the movie; I actually think this is one of the better shot Smith films. That seems to get lost on a lot of people eager to bash Smith. A few isolated shots, in particular, are great and placed at exactly the right time to give the film the perfect feeling. One that jumps to mind immediately is a shot of Banky and Holden in the third act towards the end of the movie, after Holden's big spiel on what would fix their relationships and Alyssa's subsequent exit. It's a great two shot, and the camera is stationary, but it is very impactful in a way that only minimalist filmmaking can be.
This isn't, of course, my favorite Smith film, but I adore it nonetheless, and it is in the higher tier of his filmography.
10. Jersey Girl
9. Cop Out
7. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
4. Chasing Amy