Sunday, September 23, 2007

#75: Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy, 1997, written and directed by Kevin Smith.

Everyone has a moment when they're rudely forced to accept that they aren't as young as they'd like to believe. Martin Amis's day of reckoning came on May 21st, 1976, when the Rolling Stones played Earls Court. Here's what he wrote at the time:

Perhaps I'm too old for this sort of thing now—too old to buy fruitless discomfort at £1 an hour. I shouldn't have gone. I'm never going again.

He was 26. I'm not as precocious as Martin Amis, but I had a similar experience watching Chasing Amy. The film was released ten years ago this April; I remember seeing it on its initial run. It certainly didn't seem timeless, but neither did it seem to be bound to a particular moment in history. And even if it was, what of it? The time since leaving behind the yearly landmarks of college has been a more or less undifferentiated mass; certainly things haven't changed that much. But ask yourself (as I did): When was the last time you walked into a bar and the band looked like this?

The makeup, the hair, the flannel. And Pete's Wicked Ale. I must regretfully report that the world has moved on since Chasing Amy was released. This has unfortunate implications for me and my ever-more-out-of-date wardrobe, but it makes the film more interesting than it was the first time I saw it. Kevin Smith didn't know he was making a time capsule, but Chasing Amy is filled with small details of an era that you probably didn't realize was so long ago. All that's missing are those damn child-proof lighters with the plastic lock you had to rip out with your teeth. No, wait:

I stand corrected. Chasing Amy was shot during the long-ago days when comic book fans were still a unjustly-reviled subculture, before they talked the studios into making things like Ghost Rider and earned their revulsion. Appropriately enough, the movie opens at a comic-con. You know you're in the distant past from the first tracking shot: there are no studio publicists, no Harry Knowles, no A-list actors. Well, actually there's one A-lister, but he hadn't made it yet:

Ben Affleck plays Holden McNeil, a comic book artist who's sitting on the doorstep of commercial success. In plaid boxers.

That's his collaborator, Banky Edwards, played by the always-amusing Jason Lee. Holden and Banky's friendship is thrown into disarray when Holden falls hard for Alyssa Jones, a fellow comic book artist.

As in any romantic comedy, there's a complication, which once again pretty clearly dates the film to the mid-nineties.

That's Carmen Llywelyn—Jason Lee's wife at the time—making out with Joey Lauren Adams. This makes Jason Lee's great reaction shot all the more credible:

Alyssa's sexuality is just a stand-in for whatever the obstacle would be in any other romantic comedy; she could be seeing another man without much of a change to the film. It seems like more of a hook for Miramax's marketing team to seize on than an intregal part of her character. This is not to understate the importance of having an easy hook for marketing: this movie got distributed by a major studio for a reason. But Chasing Amy is more about Holden's jealousy than Alyssa's identity. And the best thing about the movie has nothing to do with either character: it's Jason Lee. He's the only member of the cast who moves smoothly through Chasing Amy's schizophrenic changes in tone. No matter how goofy the setup, Lee manages to make it funny. Smith stages a truly absurd scene near the beginning of the film where Holden and Banky heckle a black militant comic book artist (his book is called "White Hating Coon"). Sample dialogue:

                    HOOPER
          They tryin' to tell us that deep
          inside we all wants to be white!

                    BANKY
          Well, isn't that true?

It's just as ridiculous as it sounds on the page (more than you can see in that excerpt even: Hooper is arguing that the Star Wars trilogy is about urban gentrification), and Hooper's response to his hecklers is equally ludicrous:

But I defy you not to laugh at Jason Lee's reaction shot:

It's cornball, and straight from the eighties comedies Smith drew on in Mallrats, but it cracked me up. So Lee's got that going for him. But when the scene calls for it, he manages to draw upon the kind of depths that Robert Downey, Jr. would be proud of:

Jason Lee's unexpected soulfulness is unfortunate for Ben Affleck, whose character is supposed to be the film's locus for angst. His name is Holden, for Chrissakes. Still, he's up against a lot: Kevin Smith lets Lee convey a lot about his character wordlessly. Affleck has to get the same information across while wading through grandiose speeches. Here's how he confesses his love to Alyssa, who has just bought him a chintzy painting:

I love you. And not, not in a friendly way, although I think we’re great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy dog way, although I’m sure that’s what you’ll call it. I love you. Very, very simple. Very truly. You are the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being. And I know that you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is the furthest thing from an option you would ever consider. But I had to say it. I just, I can’t take this anymore.

I can’t stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can’t, I can’t look into your eyes without feeling that, that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can’t talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. And I know this will probably queer our friendship—no pun intended—but I had to say it, because I’ve never felt this way before. And I don’t care, I like who I am because of it. And if bringing this to light means we can’t hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But God, I just, I couldn’t allow another day to go by without just getting it out there, regardless of the outcome—which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shootdown. And, you know, I’ll accept that. But I know—I know that some part of you is hesitating for a moment. And if there is a moment of hesitation, then that means you feel something too. All I ask, please, is that you just, you just not dismiss that, and try to dwell in it for just ten seconds.

Alyssa, there isn’t another soul on this fucking planet who has ever made me half the person I am when I’m with you. And I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau. Because it is there between you and me. You can’t deny that. Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that I am forever changed because of who you are and what you’ve meant to me, which—while I do appreciate it—I’d never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.

If that's how he responds to a painting, thank God she didn't get him a car. I have my own shameful history of speechifying, so the scene didn't exactly ring false to me, but nothing Affleck can do will make this word soup seem like it would have the desired effect on Alyssa (it does). And that's the reason the movie didn't work for me: Holden is such a sad sack that it's not credible that a straight, unattached woman would fall for him, much less a lesbian. On the whole, she seems to have a better time with Banky:

That's one of the Chasing Amy's best scenes: Banky and Alyssa trade war stories about cunnilingus while Holden sits silently by, embarrassed out of his mind. Say what you will about Kevin Smith, no other filmmaker has found quite as much comedy in the mechanics of sex. It may be a dubious honor, but this is really where Kevin Smith broke new ground, and why I believe he belongs in the Criterion Collection, even if I don't love his movies. Remember: as tame as it seems now, Clerks nearly got an NC-17 rating when initially released (it took Alan Dershowitz to convince the MPAA to give it an R). Mallrats, Smith's misguided attempt to graft his sensibilities onto the skeleton of a mainstream eighties comedy, was a misstep. But although Chasing Amy has the structure of a thousand romantic comedies, Smith successfully infuses it with a kind of grossout humor previously only plumbed by standups. Observe:

That's not the kind of thing you usually see in multiplexes. As funny as the scene is, Joey Lauren Adams's "can you believe I'm getting away with this?" expression illustrates the most dated thing about the movie. You can see it most egregiously when Alyssa affectionately calls another woman a cunt, but throughout Chasing Amy there's a self-congratulatory feel to the vulgarity that went out of style somewhere around the turn of the millennium. Come to think of it, there's a lot of self-congratulation going on throughout the film, which is packed with references to Smith's previous movies: Alyssa and Holden both knew the characters from Clerks (Alyssa went to the funeral that Dante and Randall ruined) and they both hung out at the Eden Prairie Mall from Mallrats. And of course, there's the obligatory appearance of Jay and Silent Bob. Actually, I kind of like what Smith does with these two; they're in the movie before they appear. Holden and Banky's success comes from a book based loosely on the duo called "Bluntman and Chronic":

From what we see of the comic book, they behave pretty much the way their characters did in Mallrats, which is to say they're completely insufferable. Late in the movie, they show up in person:

This gives Smith an opportunity for a moment of post-modern introspection, criticizing himself for the way he used these characters in his previous movie:

                    JAY
          But that ain't like us at all,
          all slapsticky and shit, run around
          like a couple of dickheads,
          saying... what's that shit he's got
          us saying?

                    SILENT BOB
          Oh, um, Snoochie Boochies.

                    JAY
          Snoochie Boochies. Who the fuck
          talks like that? That is fucking
          baby talk.

Agreed. This sort of recursion is pap to fanboys, but it doesn't help Chasing Amy succeed on its own merits. In the end, for the film to work, we have to believe that Alyssa and Holden really connect, so much so that Alyssa is willing to redefine her sexual identity in order to be with Holden. It's kind of a stretch. The characters do work pretty well when their relationship is falling apart, however. The best-directed scene between Alyssa and Holden is the fight they have at the hockey match, where Holden's jealousy and insecurity finally gets completely out of control.

It's tightly paced and edited, even if the insert shots are on the nose, and it makes me think Smith could have a great movie in him if he weren't quite as in love with the sound of his own voice. But when the opportunity comes to have one character give a grand speech, Smith can't resist. Watching the movie, I was reminded of Frozone's description of Baron Von Ruthless's fatal mistake in The Incredibles:

He starts monologuing! He starts this, like, prepared speech about how "feeble" I am compared to him, how "inevitable" my defeat is, how "the world will soon be his," yadda yadda yadda.

In the end, Kevin Smith's fatal flaw as a screenwriter comes straight from the world of comic books. I like to think he appreciates the irony.

Randoms:

  • Chasing Amy is second only to Armageddon when it comes to discussions of films that don't really deserve to be part of the Criterion Collection. I see where people are coming from, but I think you can make a case for it now that you couldn't when the DVD was released in 2000. In addition to being a time capsule from the mid-nineties in terms of what's on screen, Chasing Amy also represents a pivotal moment in the film industry. The movie came out towards the end of the time that people thought of "independent film" as a sensibility, rather than a financing model. Harvey and Bob Weinstein were just starting to peak, Miramax's stranglehold on the Academy Awards was well on its way. And as much as people dislike it now, it was very, very well-reviewed on its release. Still, reactions to its inclusion in the collection are, well, mixed. Here's Ben Affleck on hearing that Armageddon wouldn't be his only Criterion DVD:

    And here's the slightly-more-circumspect Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee getting the same news.

  • The still of Alyssa and Banky trading cunnilingus stories is staged to match the scene in Jaws where Quint tells his story about the U.S.S. Indianapolis—note the matching booth and windows. You can make your own vagina dentata joke here.

    This scene contains Chasing Amy's other great profane film quote, this time from The Graduate:

    Look closely at that still and you can see Banky's hair, moving back and forth at the bottom of the frame.

  • Like any Kevin Smith movie, there's a part for Brian O'Halloran. And like any Ben Affleck movie, there's a part for Matt Damon. They play a pair of obnoxious MTV executives who want to make an animated series out of Bluntman and Chronic.

    According to the commentary track, Damon's character was based on Mike De Luca, whose best days were still ahead of him.

  • Kevin Smith quotes one other filmmaker in Chasing Amy, and it's an odd choice for the consummate New Jersey white boy:

    During the scene where Banky tells Holden how Alyssa got her nickname, Smith cuts to a direct-to-the-handheld-camera monologue that's straight out of Do The Right Thing. And yes, that's the convenience store from Clerks in the background.

  • The film was shot on non-anamorphic 16mm for budget reasons, and the transfer really shows its grain. When Criterion released this on laserdisc, the director of photography corrected some framing errors in the original theatrical release, but when they did an anamorphic transfer for the DVD, they made the same mistakes all over again. So the DVD duplicates the theatrical experience, down to the shots where Jason Lee and Ben Affleck's heads are cut off:

  • Speaking of budget, Smith alludes on the commentary to taking the film away from Miramax and then bringing it back, but doesn't elaborate. On the Criterion Forum, I found a link to this interview with Smith, in which he explains:
    Chasing Amy was supposed to be a $2-$3 million flick, and the money was there for the taking, but we just didn't agree on the cast with Miramax. I wanted to use Ben, Joey and Jason, and Miramax was all about using other people. And so I had a meeting with [Miramax head] Harvey [Weinstein] where I basically lowballed it and said, "Look, man, we'll go off and make this movie with our cast for two hundred grand, and if you guys want it when we're done, fine. If not, we can take it to someone else." And he was completely sold. So we went off and made it, came back, and the dude fell in love with it. And now he loves my actors so much that they've been cast in other movies.
    So with Clerks (financed on credit cards), Smith has now made at least two films completely on his own terms. In the case of Chasing Amy, he walked away from at least 1.8 million to get the cast he wanted. Whatever you think of his movies, I think you have to respect his balls. Also note that at the time the interview was conducted, The Onion couldn't take it for granted that their readers would have any idea who Harvey Weinstein was or what he did for a living.

  • As self-indulgently recursive as Chasing Amy seems, it could have been worse. The film originally opened with Holden and Banky meeting two scornful comic book owners. Their snarky comments about "Bluntman and Chronic" were taken directly from a negative review of Mallrats.

  • Casey Affleck has a brief appearance in the opening scene, wearing a Watchmen t-shirt. From what I hear of his performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he's come a long way.

  • The fashions of 1997 are all the more embarrassing because I remember wearing them. But consider this: Ben Affleck is wearing his own clothes throughout the film (which were apparently stolen during the production). Every flannel shirt, every pocket-t, every pair of raggedy jeans was from the personal pre-fame wardrobe of the star of Armageddon. Movie stars! They're just like us! Until they can afford not to be!

27 comments:

Will Schenk said...

It's interesting that you like Jason Lee more than Affleck in this movie. I'm just a movie watcher -- I've seen a mountain of movies but mostly when I was in my early twenties and I've never studied film or anything like that. But I never got this movie. The only movie of Kevin Smith's that I thought was worth watching was Mallrats actually, which everyone seems to like to hate but Jason Lee was actually funny in it.

At the time that these came out, there was such hope and faith put into the idea of an "independent movie" or being I don't know what, art or a vehicle or truth or something that wasn't like the normal crap that hollywood feeds us. I'm not totally sure what it was in reaction to, but it was going to be a big savior. Kevin Smith really filled that roll, and Clerks I think got a lot more attention because of the time and place that it came from rather than its own merits. It was arty and edgy or whatever "authentic" enough in a way that people wanted but also accessible enough to bored suburbanites. People were looking for something and this was the closest that fit the bill.

But Mallrats... that was actually funny. Lee really kept that movie going. Chasing Amy was tough because it tried to be more than it was.

Marina said...

Timely critique.

I've had this sitting on my DVD shelf for nearly a year (purchased at bargain bin price of $5) and though I'd pop it in. It's the first time I've seen this and on first viewing I have many of the same complaints.

Though it was still a fair bit of fun and I did laugh more than once, it was often at the film, not with it.

I still think "Reality Bites" is a better capsule of the era.

Excellent critique.

Olli Sulopuisto said...

Another "me too" moment here: I remember seeing the film for the first time in the summer of 2005 and groaning out loud at the hockey scene. For me, the cross-cut ice hockey action was so unbearable that it sucked the enjoyment out of watching the actors do their thing.

I think it's really telling of your perception that you managed to still appreciate the acting in that scene despite the horrible, horrible Montage of Allegorical Action.

Matthew Dessem said...

Will,

I saw Mallrats for the first time while preparing to watch this film—I mostly thought it was weird, for the same reason Jay spells out in Chasing Amy. Smith really made that duo insufferable; I mean, grappling hooks? I did love the video at the end of Ben Affleck insisting that Renée Humphrey call him by the names of the New Kids on the Block while they had sex. But still, after something as episodic as Clerks, I don't know why Kevin Smith thought he should use eighties comedies as his structural template.

You're right about people seizing on Kevin Smith as the savior of cultural authenticity or whatever; it was a pretty strange time in our culture. Like I wrote above, I don't think it was entirely unjustified—Smith really did take film comedy to places it hadn't been. But I wonder which directors of this decade will be looked back on with the same sort of "what were we thinking?" feeling that Smith seems to get these days. Has anyone here seen Jersey Girl, by the way? His fans seem to like that film but the trailers looked so terrible I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it.

I will say that I'm looking forward to seeing the episodes of Reaper he directed. But I'll watch Ray Wise play evil in anything. Also, Red State sounds like it has potential.

Matthew Dessem said...

Marina,

Glad you enjoyed the essay. I'll admit that I've only seen Reality Bites dubbed in Italian, at a time when I was still learning Italian. But it seemed to me like a kind of self-conscious attempt to be "the movie of the nineties," in the same way Singles did. I didn't remember Chasing Amy as being a period piece (and it doesn't feel to me like Smith was trying to capture the era, it just sort of happened. Of course, I should maybe see Reality Bites in a language I speak before making grand pronouncements about it...

Matthew Dessem said...

Olli,

The cross-cutting didn't bother me much, because it's rare enough that Kevin Smith actually tries something like that to begin with. There's a funny story about that scene on the commentary, actually -- it was originally set in Alyssa's kitchen. And one of the notes they'd gotten from some exec or other was that they needed to open the story out (I believe this was when they were still planning on a 2-3 million dollar budget) Anyway, they were sort of struggling to give such a small movie more exciting locations, and apparently, someone threw out, as a joke, "What're we gonna do, set their big argument in the middle of a fucking hockey stadium?" And that's what they did.

Shawn McGuire said...

Your review relies moreon Kevin Smith lore than actual analysis of issues. From reading other reviews of yours, this says more about the film than it does of you. Nice try. Chasing Amy doesn't belong in the Criterion Collection.

Matthew Dessem said...

Shawn,

Maybe I missed the part of your comment where you provided "actual analysis of issues." Why don't you think Chasing Amy belongs in the Criterion Collection?

Jason Albrecht said...

I'm a Generation Y-er who was late to the Kevin Smith bandwagon. Your analysis of how times have changed since as recently as 2000 has me thinking. How would you rate Smith's more recent films, and, perhaps more frighteningly, how do you think a film like Clerks II will be viewed ten years from now?

Your analysis of Smith's tendency to monologue is a great catch.

Thanks for the review.

Jeff McMahon said...

"As self-indulgently recursive as Chasing Amy seems, it could have been worse."

Yes, it could have been Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith's most self-congratulatory ode to himself.

Meanwhile, I've seen Jersey Girl too. It's Smith's other movie where he tries to be 'serious' and meaningful and it comes off forced and tedious. I have a pretty solid feeling that twenty years from now Smith's films will be looked at exclusively for their nostalgic time-capsule qualities and otherwise people will have moved on.
That said, I still like Clerks.

Matthew Dessem said...

Jason,

I actually haven't seen anything since Dogma (which I enjoyed). So I don't know how they'll be seen, but the right question might be if they'll be seen. Glad you enjoyed the review.

Matthew Dessem said...

Jeff,

You know, I rewatched Clerks for this review, and although I could remember how much I liked it when I saw it (around 1995, on video), I didn't enjoy it that much this time around. When's the last time you saw it?

Jeff McMahon said...

I haven't seen it in at least six years, so maybe that's why I'm able to retain that enjoyment level.

Allan White said...

Sorta OT, but the Incredibles did indeed have some great dialogue. I love that scene you mentioned ("and he starts monologuing..."). Another fave: "YOU married Elastigirl?? And got BIZZAY!!"

And don't forget when Mr. Incredible starts monologuing in captivity, and Violet interrupts: "I think we've made quite enough progress for today, don't you?"

On topic: I don't see how I can relate to this movie at all. Too crude, too many in-jokes.

Matthew Dessem said...

Allan,

The Incredibles is one of my favorite films. And Ratatouille is near perfect as well; Brad Bird is on my short list of people who should be given as much money as they want and left alone to make movies.

Luke Corbin said...

Matthew, I've read a number of reviews and have enjoyed them all. As yet another aspiring writer myself I also appreciate your references to personal life. Keep up the good work!

I just watched Chasing Amy for the first time after reading your review. However, I have seen Clerks several times, Mallrats twice recently and Clerks II on its theatrical run.

I like the idea touched on in your essay and in the comments that Smith's films are period pieces. I think this comes across better in Mallrats than Chasing Amy. Mallrats captures the eighties gluttonous boom of the Mall coyly and with reverie. Mallrats' depiction of the now controversial setting is a far cry from the private/public space wars we see free thinkers of society entrenched in now, where malls are commodified town squares and retail is the driving force behind the youth social scene.

But to the film at hand.

I found the balance of drama and comedy of primary interest to Chasing Amy, prominently the fact that the two qualities clash rather than compliment each other. Often I was close to laughing, with a tidy couch grin and anticipation growing, only to be shot down by a cheesy Smithian monologue or a flat attempt at spicing up the Genuine Real Emotion between the characters.

For me, Chasing Amy takes the drama too seriously and the comedy not seriously enough, I think. I find Clerks very funny, I find Mallrats funny enough and Clerks II serviceable. None of these films make a decent stab at being taken seriously. Chasing Amy does for better or worse, and for me it's definitely worse.

On a final note I will agree with your estimation of Jason Lee. He is hands down the star of the film, as he is in Mallrats. He delivers Smith's lines perfectly and has a unique ability for slapstick (although I'm definitely not going to see him in that new Chipmunks movie...)

Matthew Dessem said...

Luke,

Glad you're enjoying the site! Mallrats, to me, seems like less of a period piece and more of an anomaly. It's got the structure of a big 80s comedy, but it's not an 80s film; it's from 1995. And the dialogue is straight from Clerks and would be difficult to imagine in something like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Also, I think the private/public space debate is older than you give it credit for; take a look at the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead, for instance. I agree, however, that the comedic and serious elements in Chasing Amy don't mesh as well as one would hope; very few scenes are both funny and serious. And of course, we both agree about Jason Lee. Recently, he had a marvelous cameo in episode 11 of Yacht Rock, which I can't recommend highly enough. You can see it here.

Piff Tannen said...

i just stumbled across this blog looking for that jay and silent bob quote. this is a great blog. fantastic read. thanks.

Serge said...

Hi Matt,

Great Blog you got going here.

Since Chasing Amy has a special place in my film-loving heart, I wanted to add something to your great review.

I was surprised you didn’t mention the scene between Hooper and Holden in the record store as a good scene.

I mention it because in it lies, at least for me, the heart of "Chasing Amy". To me this movie was always about the so-called perceptive modern male, who's open to everything and yet so uncertain on how to approach the big question marks that women sometimes represent. I also can't remember a movie where the filmmaker strips off all those male fantasies and discovers a very human and frail core beneath it.

Case in point: "Men need to believe they're Marco F***ing Polo when it comes to sex, like they're the only ones who've ever discovered new territory." As spoken by Hooper X, and to me these words still sound very, very true. Not to put my fellow men down, but the observations made by Smith in this movie are very astute, and dare I say it, classical. Meaning, they don’t go out of style that fast.

Of course this doesn't exactly merit an entry in the Criterion Collection, but it's certainly a deserved long shot.

Maybe some of the faults of "Chasing Amy" are that as far as relationships go it's quite the Sci-fi-Rom-Com (as acknowledged by Smith) but when it comes to the pain as expressed in a conversation about love and other hobbies, it’s dead on.

Keep up the great work, quite a find this blog, especially for a Criterion-Junkie like myself.

Greetings

Serge

nano said...

I'm stunned you didn't mention the two scenes I remember the most: the "who gets the bill?" scene -brilliant Jason Lee stuff- and the climax scene, which features another excellent reaction shot (Jason's sigh of relief). actually this last moment for me represents the film's best value, which is Smith's ability to "clash" comedy and drama in the same scene, just like in real life.
he never did it again so good, and some of his last films -like Jersey Girl- are shameful in this respect, but Chasing Amy is a real gem.
another thing: the hockey scene reminded me of the "wave" scene in When Harry met Sally, I thing there was intercutting between them and the game on that one too.
congratulations on your blog. I found it looking for reviews on "Woman of the dunes" (yours is excellent). that's in a way another relationship film, so different, so intensely fascinating as this one.

Doug Wykstra said...

Actually, nano, the difference between the hockey scene in Jersey Girl and the "Wave" scene in When Harry Met Sally is that in Jersey Girl, the action on ice parallels the content of the conversation, and Smith's subpar editing and camera skills make the whole thing feel sort of clumsy and forced (though I do feel a certain amount of affection for the amateur look of Smith's early films). In When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby doing the Wave doesn't correspond to anything- they're just doing it automatically, while having an otherwise deeply serious conversation about Harry's marriage going down the drain. Their automatic performance of the mass cheer, juxtaposed with their complete lack of interest in the game, provides the joke.

And good review, Matthew, although I must say that I enjoyed the 3-paragraph Affleck monologue you quoted in the review. It may feel artificial and out-of-place in the scene, but I like it purely for wish-fulfillment reasons: who hasn't had a time where they wanted to be able to express themselves and their feelings so honestly, so perfectly? Smith's wrote everything I've ever been too tongue-tied, or too cowardly, or too clueless to say to any girl with whom I've been friends and wanted to be more, and Affleck nails the delivery, making it seem natural, or at least naturally false- you get the feeling Holden's been rehearsing this in his mind for awhile, and he finally found an opportunity to use it. I guess that if Kevin Smith's major flaw comes from the world of comic books, he gets a few major strengths from the same place.

Timothy Liebe said...

I don't understand why DOGMA hasn't gotten a Criterion release - I think it's Kevin Smith's best film, and the only one where he not only shows some genuine cinematic style, but goes outside his own Jersey Shore obsessions to Say Something Important. Also, he out-Da Vinci Codes THE DA VINCI code four years early, and includes a Shit
Demon and George Carlin as a too-worldly Cardinal besides!

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what modern day romantic comedy would belong in the Criterion collection if not 'Chasing Amy'. (For that matter, how can anybody who thinks 'Armageddon' shouldn't think 'The Rock' should?)

And I'd also like to point out that, in prepping 'Chasing Amy', producer Scott Mosier was the person who suggested to Criterion that they release 'Rushmore' which, obviously, led to a very strong relationship. (That's why he's thanked on the Rushmore DVD.)

Matthew Dessem said...

Anonymous,

I think you could make a case for, say, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, though that's very much of this decade and not the last. Interesting about Scott Mosier—I didn't know that.

Timothy Liebe said...

Anonymous: "I'm curious what modern day romantic comedy would belong in the Criterion collection if not 'Chasing Amy'."

SECRETARY - because it took romantic comedy places it never dared go before, and was the first genuinely sympathetic (semi) mainstream, from-the-inside treatment of a successful Dominant/submissive relationship.

It's also culturally significant because it mainstreamed BDSM for Middle America, similar to how LA CAGE AUX FOLLES mainstreamed same-sex relationships for Middle America in the late Seventies/early Eighties.

Josh Surratt said...

Hello all,

I read your critique and I must say it was informative and that it was well-written. This film is actually my favourite of all-time, you see? I think that despite the fact that it's dated; it still holds up in relevancy of today's society.

As a very self-conscious male, I can relate to how suspicious, sorrowful and wordy Holden is in this film. Although I never did reach the point of reciting a 10-page monologue after a girl purchased a painting for me.

Holden acts very realistically in this film, in my opinion. At first, he's so interested in sleeping with Alyssa; he feels a vibe and a connection. Finding out she was a lesbian just made him repulsed, bitter and determined. That is how most males would react to finding out such a thing. Because of this, I feel that he would memorise a speech and try to whoo her.

The only real problems I had with this film is the ending. After such an elegant, beautifully-told story Silent Bob gives, I was bewildered by Holden's attempt at a three-way. It seemed like he missed the entire point of what Silent Bob was saying: "Don't care that you're not on-par with her; she's not looking for that any more!". In addition, I didn't think that Holden and Banky would stop being friends after all they've been through. It just wouldn't have happened.

Personally, I disregard Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and the "continuation" it gives us to Chasing Amy. I like to think that Holden and Banky became friends again and continued having a homoerotic friendship that never escalated. I also like to think that he and Alyssa became friends. It seems like they could've have done that.

All-in-all, I love the film. It's my favourite Kevin Smith film and film in general. However, to each their own. I enjoyed your post and I respect your analysis.

Thanks for reading.

- Josh.

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