Chasing Amy

Kevin Smith's third film as a writer-director-actor hyphenate is going to piss off a lot of politically correct people. It's a love story between two cartoonists: Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a lesbian, and Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), a straight guy. See my point? Hang on. Smith's second film, Mallrats, pissed off a lot of people, too. That's because it wasn't as good as his first film, Clerks. In fact, Mallrats really sucked.

Chasing Amy, the last in Smith's New Jersey trilogy, is very good indeed. It's a rude blast of gleeful provocation, a farce about emotional pain, a drama about sexual slapstick. At the Sundance Film Festival screening, those who didn't join in the standing ovation at the end bristled at Smith for pretending he knew anything about lesbians. Smith seemed to enjoy the shit storm he'd stirred up.

The plot kicks off with Holden and his roommate, Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), at a cartoonist convention. Banky is straight, or maybe he isn't, but I'm jumping ahead. Their comic book, Bluntman and Chronic, impresses Alyssa. Holden is likewise impressed with her. After a failed stab at friendship, they try sex. Banky is appalled, as are Alyssa's lesbian friends. Holden isn't jealous of women, but when he hears of Alyssa's former sexual acrobatics with other men, he freaks out. To resolve the amatory confusion, he invites Alyssa and Banky to join him in a three-way. The suggestion makes nobody happy.

Adams may overdo her smile, but she delivers Alyssa's stand on sexual politics with bewitching persuasiveness. Affleck and Lee find a dynamic in the friendship of Holden and Banky that allows for humor and hurt. The inspiration for their lives and their comic book are Jay, played by Jason Mewes, and Silent Bob, played by Smith. The duo is featured in all three Smith movies, but never with more pointed fun than here, as Silent Bob explains to Holden what it means to be chasing an Amy. Wisdom, man, and comic nirvana.

From The Archives Issue 218: July 29, 1976
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