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Chasing Amy: Giant Strides

Kevin Smith saw Richard Linklater's Slacker late one night and realized that making movies was not only possible, but very approachable. The cheapest thing in the world is good dialogue and the $27,000 Clerks (first titled Inconvenience) had enough for two movies in it. Smith's East Coast dialogue went way too fast for most of my California contemporaries, but they got the dick jokes and laughed their butts off. And those of us who had been unfortunate enough to have a shit job like this one (like my own McDonald's experience) could relate to Dante and Randall's dilemma.

Then the critics gleefully began sharpening their axes once the $6 million Mallrats came to the theaters. Okay granted, there's a lot of problems with the movie but I can't deny one thing: the first time I saw it, I laughed my ass off.  Since this movie was supposed to be a comedy, something which seemed to escape most of the critics, they took aim at the sound-alike dialogue, unbelievable scenarios and the actors’ stilted delivery of the previously mentioned lines. Were they valid criticisms? Probably yes. The more you watch Mallrats, the more you see what’s wrong with it.

But hey folks, this isn’t rocket science. This is making movies, capish? Nobody's perfect.

So Smith retreated back to the low budget world and produced the $250,000 Chasing Amy, finishing off his Jersey Trilogy. Bottom line: it’s a winner.

Story in a nutshell: boy meets lesbian. Boy wants lesbian and can’t have her. Boy freaks out. Lesbian throws herself at boy, giving the finger to conventions. Lesbian loses friends. Boy loses his best friend. Boy and lesbian have fight over their past, boy and lesbian break up. Boy gets idea to reunite lesbian, boy and friend. Lesbian and friend freak out, everybody goes their separate way. Movie ends with question finale.

Chasing Amy is considerably advanced from the previous two movies. Whereas Mallrats was a dingy comedy through and through and Clerks championed the proletariat minimum wage slaver through sarcastic dialgoue, Chasing Amy is several different movies at once. It combines love story, coming-of-age tale (sure, Ben Affleck’s character of Holden is about twenty six or so, but aren’t we all still pretty clueless about certain things all our lives?), social commentary on gay society and acidly funny comedy.

Smith shows that his humor is still rooted in dick jokes when Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and Banky (Jason lee) compare scars from sexual misadventures in a bar one night. While Affleck sits there with an "I’d rather be anywhere in the universe than here right now" look on his face (the fifth wheel look: we all know that scenario), Lee and Adams engage in an actual bonding moment while Adam’s girlfriend looks bored and Affleck just wants to get away. The scene is riotously funny, and also shows that at some point this weird three way relationship could work.

Unfortunately, Lee is not about to be thrown over for some skirt and this is where Smith raises some questions about Lee’s motives. Is he trying to keep them apart because he doesn’t want to see his best friend get hurt… or does he want Affleck all for himself? And in what way does he desire his friend’s company?

Adams’ character has a past in Chasing Amy, and it is from Smith’s real life relationship with Adams that the storys’ plot line came about. No, Joey Lauren Adams is not a lesbian. Are you guys disappointed or something? Smith is at his best when sticking to what he knows best: human interaction. Much like Jim Jarmusch or Richard Linklater, Smith is a visually flat director, one of the "turn on the camera and let ‘em talk" school. But as a writer, he makes a quantum leap from Mallrats and proves that he’s not all about dick jokes and fat guys slamming through walls into dressing rooms for laughs.

Dogma is View Askew’s next production. I've read the script and it looks like another winner. When it comes out, we’ll be there. Maybe there will even be a few dick jokes...

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