Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy

For the longest time the only Kevin Smith movie I had ever seen was Clerks, which I liked quite a lot. Then more recently I’ve seen an additional four Kevin Smith movies. Clerks II, Jersey Girl, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back were all disappointing to at least some degree. Certainly none impressed me as much as Clerks. Clerks II and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back have some laughs and work to a limited extent as comedies but are nothing special. Jersey Girl may be even a little weaker. It too has its moments, but mostly is hackneyed, predictable, and superficial.

Now comes Chasing Amy.

And once again I’m going to say it’s a disappointment, at least in terms of not rising to the level of Clerks. On the other hand, it’s probably my second favorite of the lot so far.

There’s some cleverly vulgar dialogue that I mostly liked (e.g., an extended exchange where a man and a lesbian are trying to top each other describing the injuries they’ve sustained eating pussy), but I was always conscious of how “written” it sounded, how I couldn’t picture these conversations taking place among real people.

While that kind of stuff does provide at least a little humor, I was hoping the whole movie wouldn’t be limited to that, and in fact it does eventually explore some more interesting territory.

But I think I liked the ideas more than the execution. That is, the movie raises various matters of relationships and emotions and ethics and such that are important and interesting, but the story, the characters they’re hung on mostly didn’t connect with me.

I don’t know if it’s the writing or the acting or what, but I just wasn’t buying the central relationship between the Ben Affleck character and the lesbian who was converting to be with him. Maybe I just don’t get Ben Affleck, because I remember he was a dud in Jersey Girl too.

I liked some of the positive things they said to each other at certain points of the film; I just wish I could have heard them from characters I believed. I wish I could have sensed the chemistry between them that the script called for.

The occasional histrionics from the woman are implausible overreactions, or if I do suspend disbelief and take them at face value, it makes me like her less and have more trouble accepting that Affleck could see so much in her.

Her verbal style is also frankly a little annoying. It’s the kind of smart alecky, smirking, competitive, “gotcha” style that some women have, a sort of “Ha ha, I’m clever enough to trap you into apparent inconsistencies and hypocrisy if you try to use logic with me,” where the idea isn’t to clarify things or seek truth or come to an agreement, but just to fluster a person in a “cute” way to take him down a peg. Never cared for that.

The way they break up is not even slightly plausible. In fact, I was convinced it was a put-on, that the Affleck character was pretending in order to make some deeper point. But evidently not.

But even if he had a brain fart and was serious, I don’t get breaking up over it. Not after all this stuff that made it sound like they recognize each other as soulmates. And if you do overreact, then just get back together later if you’re so into each other. They see each other after a year and it’s like “Oh, there’s a reminder of an important life lesson I learned,” and they go their separate ways, instead of one or both of them saying, “Hey we’re soulmates remember? Let’s work it out.”

Somehow that whole relationship didn’t feel real to me.

Affleck’s roommate—the My Name is Earl guy—and some of the lesser characters, are a bit better. Their lines come out a little more smoothly, the timing on the humor is a little better, and they seem a little more interesting (at least relative to the lesser degree we get to know them).

Starting around the midway point of the movie, there’s actually a fair amount of stuff to think about and care about: Issues of sex, gender, the fluidity of sexual preference, the impact on a friendship when one of the parties gets a significant other, honesty in a relationship, how much you should care about your partner’s pre-relationship past, and on and on. Worthwhile stuff.

These issues are explored OK at times in this movie, but I just think there’s the potential for a lot more. I’m surprised this movie got mostly rave reviews. Not that I would expect it to get panned, but critics seem to have liked it as much or more than Clerks, describing it as similarly clever and funny, but indicative of a decidedly more mature and confident filmmaker willing to delve into more complex areas.

I guess. I mean, I liked it OK. Maybe I see so many indie films that I’m used to movies addressing psychologically interesting aspects of human relationships and emotions and such, and this one strikes me as not particularly deep compared to some of those. But to someone comparing it to mainstream movies, maybe this is deeper and more daring in certain respects.

I will say I like the use of Jay and Silent Bob in Chasing Amy. They have just the right size and type of role in the story. They’re in one scene, Jay gets off some decent vulgar insults, and Silent Bob speaks the message of the movie. Like in Clerks it carries more weight precisely because he speaks so rarely. Plus it’s a good message, about appreciating a person for what they add to your life now and who they are as a human being now, and not obsessing over imperfections or finding things from their past to judge them by.

Silent Bob is a wise man. Not saying it’s up there with “You know, there’s a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work. Most of ’em just cheat on you,” but he makes a lot of sense.

They’re good characters. As I noted, they can’t sustain a full length film as was attempted in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. (Not saying I wouldn’t watch another such movie about those two, but I’d expect it to be just OK with a few decent laughs.) But like I say, this amount of them in a film is just right. They’re a definite asset to a Kevin Smith movie when used in this way.

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