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Most people would say that Clerks is director/writer Kevin Smith's best film. I beg to differ. Smith has built an eclectic filmography, with films ranging from comedy to drama to horror, and a long-running TV presence thanks to Comic Book Men, and an extensive podcast library. But Chasing Amy is a gem that moviegoers often forget about. That is, if they've even seen it at all.
The story of young male comic book artist Holden (Ben Affleck) who falls hopelessly in love with fellow artist Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), a lesbian, is sad and humorous. It just plain hurts you as you watch and laugh. Holden's obsession affects everyone around him, not just Alyssa, and the film shows what can happen between you and your friends if you pursue someone whom you have no chance with.
Chasing Amy Was Way Ahead of Its Time
If this movie had come out today, it's hard to tell if it would be more or less accepted than it was back in 1997. Smith had the guts to release it back when there was far less conversation around LGBTQ+ issues; the plot also touches on the relationships and friendships that straight people can form with people in the LGBTQ+ community, and shows the effects of homophobia. One main example being how Banky (Jason Lee) finds every opportunity to spew gay slurs and express his disgust with Alyssa's involvement with Holden at any possible moment.
At the same time, the film has been accused of perpetuating stereotypes, so it may have received a less warm reception had it been released today. But 20 years ago, it was a huge step forward for representation for the LGBTQ+ community.
Chasing Amy Is A Lot More Than Inappropriate Jokes
Chasing Amy also proves that Kevin Smith isn't just a purveyor of dick and fart jokes. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of inappropriate jokes present—but there is a balance; the mixture of heartfelt situations, and funny, poignant dialogue in Chasing Amy showed Smith's versatility, which he'd continue with Dogma.
The proof of Smith's dramatic talent is that we want Holden and Alyssa (and even Banky) to succeed, whether they are together or not. The way the story plays out brings perspective to ignorance and deception. A character like Banky may just seem like an ignorant homophobe—but if you look a bit deeper, you can see why he wants to protect Holden from being hurt. We could also look at Alyssa as just a wild person who blatantly lies to Holden about her past, but similar to Banky, she didn't want to overwhelm or hurt Holden. Holden's perspective is far more simple, as he is quite naive to what is happening on both sides, but his growth and understanding of life not being so "black & white" is compelling to watch.
Everybody and everything in Chasing Amy is deeper than what we see on the surface.
Chasing Amy gives us a lesson in the importance of conversation and not making easy, superficial assumptions—and that is a bit surprising for Kevin Smith. Holden, Alyssa, and Banky's difficulties happen, because they fail to think below the surface. The blame doesn't lie with just one character; each of them fell victim to their own personal ignorance, deceptive tendencies, and societal attitudes.
If you've never sat down to watch Chasing Amy, I would suggest you not let Kevin Smith's other projects dissuade you. While it does contain comedic elements that are present in his popular films, such as Clerks, and Mallrats, Chasing Amy digs a bit deeper into the humanity of his characters, and gives a lesson that Smith still hasn't touched on in another film.