'90s Movie Month! "Chasing Amy" Review

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Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything's going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she's gay.

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'90s Movie Month! "Chasing Amy" Review

Rating: R (strong graphic sex-related dialogue, language, sexuality, and drug content)
Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: Apr. 4, 1997
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Romance

At the beginning of "Chasing Amy," Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee) are two best friends who share a loft and produce the cult comic hit "Bluntman & Chronic." Their careers are going well, but Holden's love life isn't so hot until he and Banky meet Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) at a comic book convention. The group gets to know each other better over a game of darts and a few beers. They spill secrets and become closer, yet Holden seems blind to the fact that Alyssa is a lesbian, which he finds out one night in a surprising and somewhat humiliating way.

Even though he now knows that Alyssa is gay, Holden is smitten and just can't help himself. He confesses his feelings and tries to convince Alyssa that love can transcend sexual identities. When Alyssa, after a very angry outburst, finally falls into his arms, it seems like the new couple has a real chance at happiness. Unfortunately, none of their friends are happy about them taking their relationship to the next level. Alyssa's lesbian friends are upset that she is dating a man, and Holden's friends don't think the relationship has legs. In the face of adversity, they must take a good look at what each one wants from the other in order to see whether they can go the distance or if their friends are right.

More than a few complications arise, and the once-happy lovebirds are now arguing and having serious doubts about what is supposed to happen next. Even Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) get in on the action, dispensing advice about love and honesty. In a shocking development, Silent Bob breaks his silence to give a monologue that explains the title of the movie and encourages Holden to do the right thing, even if that means breaking up with his beloved Alyssa.

"Chasing Amy" is the final installment of what writer/director Kevin Smith calls his "New Jersey Trilogy." The trilogy, which also includes "Clerks" and "Mallrats," was based in his home state, and each film has at least one character who is proud of being from the Garden State. Considering how much attention was paid to Smith's previous two efforts, a lot of pressure was put on "Chasing Amy" to perform well at the box office and be a critical hit. It accomplished both those feats, earning a tidy sum in ticket sales and earning praise from critics who were won over by the charm of the lead actors, particularly Adams. Fans of Smith also flocked to the film to see which actors from his previous films would appear in it, since Smith loves to cast the same actors in multiple films. Those fans weren't disappointed; Brian O'Halloran, who played Dante in "Clerks," returns to play a seedy film producer.

Though Adams had a small part in "Mallrats," it wasn't until "Chasing Amy" that she became a star. She had toiled for years in much smaller roles, but her role as Alyssa has made her a mainstay in films ever since. She's a talented actress who has a screen presence and a sweetness that make audiences want to root for her characters. Of course, no explanation of how Adams seduces an audience would be complete without mentioning her very distinctive voice, which helps make Alyssa all the more charming. Even when she is making dubious choices, viewers can't help but side with her in the inevitable confrontations and fights that Alyssa finds herself in as a result of her muddled love life.

Since "Chasing Amy," Smith has gone on to make a lot of films that are set in New Jersey, so one could argue that the New Jersey Trilogy is actually not a trilogy at all. Despite this argument, Smith still sticks to his guns and calls this the final installment in the trio, insisting that the rest of his Jersey-set films are separate. If this is the case, then "Chasing Amy" is a worthy finale that ties up the trilogy nicely. It is a rare film that stands apart from the other two because its humor is edgy but still accessible to almost any moviegoer. Whereas the humor in "Clerks" was more cerebral and "Mallrats" was characterized by something closer to frat boy humor, "Chasing Amy" aims to please nearly every type of comedy fan, and it delivers in spades.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5