Independent Pick: Chasing Amy (1997)
Essentially a musing on sexuality and the effect of sexual history on new relationships, Chasing Amy is written and directed by Kevin Smith, in his first big move away from the convenience store and mall settings of his earlier work. This is a much more focused, mature movie than Clerks and Mallrats, while still retaining that signature Kevin Smith dialogue and tone that made those films really stand out in the first place.
This refreshingly alternative and subversive take on the traditional ‘boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-wins-girl-back’ trope sees a young Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee caught in something of a love-triangle, as the life-long friendship between the two men takes a hefty knock as one is drawn to the other. Holden McNeil (Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Lee) are the successful comic book authors of ‘Bluntman And Chronic.’ Their partnership trundles along uneventfully until they meet fellow author Alyssa Jones (Adams) at a comic book convention in New York City. Holden develops a substantial crush on her, before discovering that she is attracted to women. They spend lots of time together as friends, and a deep bond develops – eventually leading Holden to confess his feelings for her.
This is the point at which this seemingly predictable story turns on its head, as the briefest moment of anger, followed by the briefest moment of happiness, is halted by the spectre of encounters past. Holden must confront the issues that he has with the fact that the woman he loves lived a life before him and, crucially, face up to the source of the assumptions he made about her and their relationship. The story is a beautifully written exploration of the way in which we instinctively idealize the object of our affection – creating our own image of them in our heads – and what happens when reality effectively washes that away.
Beyond the award-winning screenplay, the draw here is the collection of performances from young, relatively untested actors. The young Affleck exudes a natural charm that fills the screen whenever he appears, and his scenes with Jason Lee – who won a Best Supporting Actor Independent Spirit Award for his turn as Banky Edwards – are a wonder to behold. He and Joey Lauren Adams also create a chemistry and ease between them that has you rooting for them – despite the obvious conflict. With wonderful support from Dwight Ewell as a comic book author with a flair for the dramatic, Chasing Amy comes highly recommended.