1/20/14

CHASING AMY - REVIEW


After Mallrats failed to impress at the box office, Kevin Smith and his View Askew universe enjoyed a little more success with Chasing Amy, a film following the doomed relationship between a jealous straight guy and a gay woman.

The film opens on a lighter note with Ben Affleck's Holden, a comic book artist, living with his pal Banky (played by View Askew regular Jason Lee) and dying to get together with Joey Lauren Adams' Alyssa until he learns that she is not, in fact, into guys. Still hoping for something to eventually happen between them, Holden forms a friendship with Alyssa and the inevitable happens: his true feelings for her finally come out into the open. The film then goes in an unexpected direction and ultimately ends on a bittersweet note. For many, this is the best Kevin Smith film out there and it's easy to see why: it tackles a relationship you've never seen develop quite like that in a movie before and it dares to be somewhat more intense and serious with it. Some scenes in this movie are pretty dramatic, especially in the second half of the film, and that's both a good thing and a problem. As passionate as Affleck and Adams' performances are in the film, neither of them manage to really make their characters likeable enough that you care all that much about them and want to see them get together, which makes the bittersweet conclusion fall a bit flat. This is a well-meaning film with loads of potential but the vulgar comedy in it just doesn't gel with the central drama. The leads are a bit too irritating to get behind and, quite honestly, not enough happens in the story. By the time the film ends, you're left wanting more and that's not surprising since Chasing Amy doesn't so much have a third act as it does have two acts and an epilogue.

The whole "let's-have-a-threesome" scene at the end of the film is handled like it's what the whole thing has been building up to but it comes right out of nowhere and isn't substantial enough to be the last big scene in the movie. The film is too distracted throughout to convincingly make this relationship the genuine focal point of our attention. Now, say what you will about Jersey Girl but at least it was focused. Here, the film wants to have all these fun, cartoonish moments like the whole Dwight Ewell Star Wars monologue, the Jay and Silent Bob scene, the Brian O'Halloran/Matt Damon cameo, the "finger cuffs" speech, and these are great moments which definitely make the film as watchable as it is but that means that whenever you go back to the whole Holden/Alyssa thing, it's frankly a bit of downer. Basically you've got two, very different films in there and they don't quite work together unfortunately: a heartfelt romantic drama a-la-Jersey Girl and a more upbeat Mallrats-esque comedy about two comic book artists debating relationships and stuff. The performances all around are solid, especially from a scene-stealing Jason Lee, and if you can get past Adams' eardrum-piercing chipmunk-like voice then chances are you'll probably enjoy this movie more than others. As it stands, Chasing Amy has some great moments, some memorable scenes and an interesting premise but it just doesn't live up to it. It needed something else, more plotting and shorter, less patronising discussions.

Some will love this movie, some won't. The romance will have an impact on some but not on others. Which is why this is a hard one to review. Personally, I enjoyed many parts of Chasing Amy but, as a whole, I was underwhelmed by it and wasn't convinced by its approach in regards to storytelling. There's something a bit clumsy and heavy-handed in the way that this simple fable develops.

A flawed, if ballsy and respectable, effort.

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