Chasing Amy
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Chasing Amy

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During the early 90s there was a young and upcoming independent filmmaker managed to beg, borrow and cajole sufficient money to make a movie. Completed on a shoestring budget ‘Clerks’ made Kevin Smith a highly recognizable name in the independent film community. During this initial portion of his career all of his films take place in the same eccentric universe called by fans the ‘View Askewniverse’, a bizarre place centered it in the state of New Jersey and populated by such odd characters as ‘Jay and Silent Bob’. Three of these movies represent what was come to be known as the ‘Jersey Trilogy’ Beginning with ‘Clerks (1992)’ followed by ‘Mallrats’(1995) and concluding with the opus considered here, ‘Chasing Amy ‘(1997). The latter has been awarded the cinematic honor of being inducted into the Criterion Collection, known for a long time as the ultimate edition of classic films. Although the story told in this film is self-contained there were a number of references and connections to the previous two movies as well as some characters that would not be fully elucidated into subsequent movies in the franchise. The main reason spans gravitated so readily to the early Kevin Smith films as he wasn’t yet some Hollywood-based filmmaker detached from the things that audience members are most interested in. He is an avid fan of comic books and graphic novels, even owning his own comic book store in New Jersey. It was well known that Smith has always been obsessed over my new details such classic movies as ‘Jaws’ and ‘Star Wars’ resulting in a major directors trademark a number of references to such movies. One example can be found in this movie ritual of the central characters are comparing scars obtained during sexual encounters that is directly from the scene in ‘Jaws’ where Hooper and Quint compare shark related injuries.

Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) partner together to produce a comic book, the pot oriented, ‘Bluntman and Chronic’ is gaining popularity among the diehard fans of the medium. Their partnership has extended far beyond the professional collaboration; they have been friends for all their life. Holden is the more reserved of the payer and is often ridiculed by the fans that his function as an inker, responsible for drawing the lines of each panel in ink to be colored later on. Fans refer to it is only tracing not worthy of being called an artist. Banky, on the other hand is flamboyant, loud and outgoing. They have been approached by some television executives played by a pair of Kevin Smith regulars, Brian O’Halloran and Matt Damon, to turn their comic into it television cartoon. The inspiration for the characters in the comic book of the neighborhood drug dealers, Jay (Jason Lee) and his hetero life partner, Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). While at a comic convention they meet Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a fellow artist who writes a "girly" book, a genre generally held in low esteem by many fans. Immediately, Holden finds himself drawn to Alyssa. She is talented and quite beautiful and they hit it off almost immediately. Holden discovers that is one catch taking the friendship in a more romantic direction; Alyssa is gay. Typical of the incestuous casting of a Smith film, Lee’s wife Carmen Llywelyn plays Kim, Alyssa’s lover. They become friends and routinely hangout together. Holden’s love is almost an affront to Banky who is constantly warning Holden that he cannot change the young lesbian. Holden can no longer hold in his feelings and tells Alyssa he loves her which segues into the dramatic conflict that carries the remainder of the story.

It should be kept in mind that at the time of this film’s release variation in sexual proclivity was far from being as main stream as it is today. Even with that taken into consideration it is unusual that the optional bisexuality is not seriously considered. Alyssa was drawn within the context of the story is facing a binary decision; gay or straight. Although this is never going to happen it would be interesting to see how Smith would have proceeded with the story if you decided to remake it today. I can understand that pulmonary point of view what Smith was attempting to accomplish. It seems he was trying to please a different twist on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but the feuding families replaced by the gay and straight communities.

Mr. Affleck underplays his part as the belabored Holden, holding back on the range that what amply demonstrated subsequent roles. The essence of his interpretation of Holden is a man who is always lived in the shadow of his more boisterous best friend. This is a crucial part of his personality that Alyssa finds attractive, at least as someone who could be a very good friend. In contrast Ms. Adams makes a break here from the characters jet up until then usually played. She was in danger of being typecast as the bubbly but stereotypical blonde, but thankfully this role afforded an opportunity to break free from such restrictions allowing them to tackle a multifaceted character. Initially she is quite bubbly and friendly but as her relationship with Holden deepens Ms. Adams is able to aptly up to the challenge of imparting a very genuinely sensitive and even vulnerable side to her character. With his previous two films cited above Mr. Smith was developing a reputation as a filmmaker specializing in zany comedies. With this film he was able to show that he could dial down such comedic flair relegating it to comic relief in an otherwise dramatic and heartfelt romantic drama.

Kevin Smith is an offbeat director. He himself openly states that Clerks was overly praised, Mallrats was overly bashed and Amy was the needed capstone to the trilogy. Smith is not a very dynamic director. In the commentary he states that he likes the film technique of mise en scene, a long steady camera shot. Others in the same commentary say that Smith is just too lazy to move around with the camera. His style frequently gives the feeling of watching a documentary with many of the moments between the romantic leads narrows the scene to them always in isolation of the rest of the characters. As a counterpoint to this and might require subsequent viewings but if you watch very carefully there is always something going on in the background of the scene. There’ve been several versions of this movie released over the years from the original DVD to high-definition remastering used as part of a three film Blu-ray set. As always this Criterion Collection edition seeks to preserve the original video and audio specifications intended theatrical viewing.

bulletAudio Commentary With Writer/Director/Actor Kevin Smith And Producer Scott Mosier
bulletTracing Amy: Documentary
bulletWas It Something I Said? Conversation Wtih Kevin And Joey
bullet10 Years Later Q&A With Kevin Smith And Cast
bulletDeleted Scenes

Posted 06/02/2016

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