Looking at Director Kevin Smith’s recent work, it’s easy to forget the impact he made when he first began film-making. Emerging during the Indie-film renaissance of the mid nineties, he first delivered his budget classic, Clerks. While you’d be forgiven for skipping over the forgettable Cop Out and Jersey Girl, it’s worth going back to check out his earlier work. Specifically for what I’d consider his best film – Chasing Amy.
With Clerks, Smith managed to capture and excite the imagination of a generation of slackers stuck in dead end jobs, resenting their place in life. It was also one of the major films responsible for inspiring the thousands of back yard, zero budget, would-be film makers after Smith showed the world what could be done with next to no cash. No small feat, considering Clerks was shot where Smith worked at the time.
His second film, Mallrats, was a huge step up from Clerks in many ways. Mostly due to there being a real budget so Smith could pay real actors – including at the time up-and-comers Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, Shannen Doherty of 90210 fame, Jeremy London fromParty of Five and Michael Rooker who is awesome in everything. Mallrats found more success on home video as a cult favourite than it did the big screen. For the most part it had everything that made Clerks great – sharp dialogue and pop culture references coming out of every orifice – but didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about Smith or his world. His next film would have to be something special if he was going to avoid being known as a one note director.
With his follow-up Chasing Amy, Smith tried his hand at a more dramatic approach. Holden and Banky (played by Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, who must have made an impression on Smith during Mallrats) are two independent comic book artists working on their book Bluntman and Chronic – superheroes based on their stoner friends Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mews and Director, Smith). While visiting a comic convention, Holden meets and starts to fall for Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams, another Mallrats alum), only to discover she’s a lesbian. Holden and Alyssa form a strong friendship, much to the disdain of Banky. As Alyssa and Holden’s bond tightens, Banky becomes more and more insecure about his friend’s new relationship.
Chasing Amy may still carry the crude, overly sexual humour that Smith became known for in Clerks and Mallrats, but where those films seemed crude for the sake of being crude, Chasing Amy uses humour to confront and question many of the stereotypes and misconceptions that fly around same sex relationships. Although you could say a lot has changed since 1997, Chasing Amy discusses these issues that still feel current, and it does so at a very personal level. While it would be a stretch to call any of Kevin Smith’s work ‘mature’, Chasing Amy is the closest he’s come to making an adult drama. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a romance with a difference.
I give this film three and a half Silent Bobs out of five.
Chasing Amy is rated MA15+, and is available until March 9th on Movie Box.
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