There are good rom-coms
And then there are good movies
This movie is both
It had to happen at some point, didn’t it? While You Were Sleeping received a 4/5; There’s Something About Mary and When Harry Met Sally both garnered 4.5/5 to stand out convincingly from the rest of the pack. Nothing else has earned a rating particularly close to those pillars of my first 15 days. Now, to start the second half of the journey, we finally find ourselves with a movie deserving of the hallowed 5/5 rating. Chasing Amy, ladies and gentlemen.
This might actually sound like a real movie review
Clerks is one of the funniest movies ever put to screen, so you’d think I would have a more ebullient appreciation for Kevin Smith’s work. Truth be told, Clerks is the only Kevin Smith movie I had seen prior to watching Chasing Amy last night. I now feel like this was a mistake. Chasing Amy isn’t a masterpiece – few films are – but it encapsulated everything I know about the director’s élan and left me enraptured following its conclusion.
The plot is rather simple: Holden (Ben Affleck) is a comic book writer smitten with Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), who he falls for even after he learns she’s gay. Sounds pretty run-of-the-mill. It is. WHO CARES. This movie isn’t driven by the plot, it’s carried by dazzling dialogue and thought-provoking themes that emanate from the screen and make you feel as if the characters would actually listen if you had something to say right then and there. The entire runtime is a roller coaster of romance, heartbreak, sexuality, and continued exploration into Kevin Smith’s love affair with hockey (which, I must say, is admirable). Clerks was perfect because it was the ultimate example of an independent stoner comedy, Chasing Amy is perfect because it’s just a damn good movie.
As with most movies deemed “damn good,” this one had its technical aspects enhanced by its acting. Affleck (ugly, reprehensible goatee aside) makes a convincing transformation from start to finish, and Jason Lee, who plays Holden’s roommate Banky, wonderfully conveys a character with a blithe disregard for political correctness despite the fact that he may be hiding something deep inside (spoilers?).
But the winner in this almost-love-triangle is Adams. Alyssa is a flawed, complex character and I can’t imagine anyone else playing her with such energy. Getting accustomed to her nasally articulations took a few minutes but her voice actually ended up being a staple of the character as a whole. A truly standout performance, though it did make me wonder aloud why Adams has appeared in quite literally nothing of note since Chasing Amy came out in 1997.
This is actually sounding like a real movie review. What is going on? I’m not a movie reviewer. I guess this is what happens when you come across a film that blew away expectations.
I’m thinking of starting my own movie review TV show. It’ll air on Saturday mornings, and I’ll recruit Richard Roeper. You know where this is going:
At The Movies With Web-ert and Roeper
Don’t pretend it’s not the greatest idea you’ve ever heard. Who do I need to talk to in order to get this done?
There are some crushingly sad movies out there, but I deign to shed a tear – ever. It’s not some macho thing I’ve got going, it’s just that I don’t cry during movies. It’s never happened. The closest I ever got was when Littlefoot’s mom died in The Land Before Time, a movie series that means more to me than you will ever know. I guess I almost cried when Woody and his crew faced a certain fiery death near the end of Toy Story 3, and Inside Out is a recent example of a movie that came somewhat close to breaching the dam. What is it with animated movies? Shit.
Anyway, the point is, some movies make you feel things. Emotions, I believe they’re called. And while Chasing Amy never put my tear ducts in danger, it definitely pulled more heartstrings than I’ve become accustomed to during this challenge. One scene in particular really got to me. Holden and Alyssa have just had a very public fight at a hockey game and Alyssa storms out of the stadium in a fury. Holden follows and chastises her for failing to reveal her past sexual transgressions to him, instances which included trysts with men – something that Holden, who only knows Alyssa as a lesbian, can not fully comprehend. This conversation devolves into a screaming match and ends with Holden leaving Alyssa crumbled on the ground in tears.
The scene was affecting for a number of reasons. One, Adams’ performance is sterling. Tears stream down her face as her voice strains trying to talk some sense into Affleck’s character. You feel everything she’s feeling, from her desperation to her frustration.
Second, Holden’s reaction is infuriating. Like, what a prick! Here’s Alyssa, pouring out her soul and apologizing for something she really doesn’t have to apologize for, and Holden just stands there and acts like this dream woman he loved yesterday is now Satan wearing a dress. I know, I know, it’s just a character in a movie. But sheesh. C’mon Holden. Listen to reason, bucko.
That I feel such a connection to the characters in this scene speaks volumes to how good this movie is. Perfect? No. Emotionally affecting, technically proficient, and politically conscious in a tidy two-hour package, with some legitimately funny humor thrown in? Yes, yes, yes.
Silent Bob: I can respect Kevin Smith’s character (alter ego? I’m not sure. Someone explain this to me), but I’ve gotta admit – hearing the guy talk in this movie, while enlightening and funny, made the Silent Bob aura wear off really fast. If the whole point is for him to be silent, why have him talk? I get that he had something to say, and yes, it’s irrational to believe anyone could be utterly silent for a lifetime, but now I feel wrong calling him Silent Bob. Meh.
Talking about sex: This movie ultimately revolves around sex, and the frank discussions that arise during new friendships. I generally shy away from movies that have long bouts of dialogue like Chasing Amy did, mostly because I often find them pretentious. But the sex talk in this movie was not just there, it was there to advance the characters and raise questions. This is particularly true in a swing-set conversation between Holden and Alyssa, who debate over what constitutes losing one’s virginity. If this conversation had been repeated verbatim in a forum outside the movie, it would have been equally interesting. That’s part of the reason this film was so good.
Ideas that sound good, but aren’t good: At the end of Chasing Amy, Holden proposes that he, Alyssa, and Banky should all engage in a ménage à trois to repair the rift that has developed between the three of them. Ultimately, this doesn’t happen. But God, it made me think of how many times I’ve suggested things that sound really smart and awesome in theory, but would be stupid and illogical in practice. If you know me, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (Examples abound, but let’s not focus on that, right?)
Quotes: Just take it in.
Banky: Alright, now see this? This is a four-way road, okay? And dead in the center is a crisp, new, hundred dollar bill. Now, at the end of each of these streets are four people, okay? You following?
Banky: Good. Over here, we have a male-affectionate, easy to get along with, non-political agenda lesbian. Down here, we have a man-hating, angry as fuck, agenda of rage, bitter dyke. Over here, we got Santa Claus, and up here the Easter Bunny. Which one is going to get to the hundred dollar bill first?
Holden: What is this supposed to prove?
Banky: No, I’m serious. This is a serious exercise. It’s like an SAT question. Which one is going to get to the hundred dollar bill first? The male-friendly lesbian, the man-hating dyke, Santa Claus, or the Easter bunny?
Holden: The man-hating dyke.
Banky: Good. Why?
Holden: I don’t know.
Banky: BECAUSE THE OTHER THREE ARE FIGMENTS OF YOUR FUCKING IMAGINATION
I loved this scene.
A well-deserved 5/5 rating for a movie I enjoyed fully. It’s also a film that one might appreciate even more with multiple viewings. The dialogue is on point and the acting is superb. This is independent film making near its highest level.