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Film Talk: Looking Back – Love, laughs and loss with Chasing Amy

It’s not who you love. It’s how… A complex yet brilliantly honest romantic comedy-drama, 1997’s Chasing Amy is the third film in writer and director Kevin Smith’s fabled ‘View Askewniverse’ series.

Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy
Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy

Starring Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee, the film follows central themes of the fluidity of sexuality, the rule of the heart over the head, and the changing nature of emotional boundaries.

A consummate cult hit, Chasing Amy was originally inspired by a brief scene from an early film by a friend of Smith’s. In Guinevere Turner’s Go Fish, a lesbian character imagines her friends passing judgment on her for sleeping with a man. This concept would come to feature at the core of Smith’s film, and exist as the captivating heart of his most intelligent picture to date.

Another of his muses for the flick, Kevin Smith was in fact dating Joey Lauren Adams at the time he was writing the script, and reportedly certain elements of it were inspired by its future star.

Channelling all of these influences and blending them with his signature themes of exasperation, procrastination, loyalty… and comic-books, Smith created an underrated masterpiece that has remained intriguing, relevant, and thought-provoking to this day.

New Jersey-based comic-book creators Holden McNeil (Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Lee) have been best friends for two decades.

Their days are spent working in their studio, their evenings waxing lyrical in the bars of the ‘garden state’.

Nothing has ever come between the two lifelong pals, but their friendship is about to be tested by the arrival of young lesbian woman, Alyssa Jones (Adams).

Captivating and confident, Alyssa is unlike anyone Holden has ever met before. As the two spend more and more time together, Holden finds his developing feelings impossible to ignore.

Entirely aware of Alyssa’s sexuality, and the supposedly hopeless nature of his feelings, Holden confesses to Alyssa that he has fallen in love with her.

However, when his admission provokes an unexpected reaction, Holden and Alyssa begin a relationship that leads them both into new emotional territory.

Sitting on the sidelines, Banky’s feeling of being pushed out of Holden’s life grows ever stronger, and he is forced to deal with the true emotional torch he has always carried for his best friend and business partner. Meanwhile, Holden is about to find out that his new-found love comes with a past that he may be unable to reconcile with.

Funny in all the right places yet far more hard-hitting than Smith’s previous two yarns of Clerks (1994) and Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy takes its audience on an intelligent journey exploring the nature of emotion and the way that feelings can develop and change.

With superb performances from Affleck, Lee and Adams – not to mention a great turn from Smith himself and pal Jason Mewes as View Askewniverse stalwarts Jay and Silent Bob – several films later for the director, Chasing Amy still exists as Smith’s crowning glory.

With a perfect balance of intellect, heart and humour, it showcases the greatest traits of his collected works in equal measure, and is a timeless encapsulation of his high-level skill as a writer and filmmaker.

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