Without a trace of self-congratulation, Mr. Smith becomes the first person to portray gay women as something other than a subculture toying with a lesser alternative.

CHASING AMY

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


With "Chasing Amy," writer/director Kevin Smith has fully realized the promise he showed with his small first film, "Clerks." He pours the spontaneous. comical thoughts of his gentle characters into the X-rated language that is the easy medium of their exchange and leaves his audience in a state of welcome, helpless laughter.

Mr. Smith is a sponge for the cultural details of the lives of his peers, and a wise old owl when it comes to exploring their feelings. When their idle notions burst forth in a conversational flow of lava, the results are hilarious. When values, choices, and love bubble through the seams of the comedy, the results are unexpectedly touching.

Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee) are pals and comic book artists who draw and philosophize in a New Jersey loft. After hours, they journey across the river to a New York bar where they search for cosmic answers with friends like stand-up comic Hooper (Dwight Ewell), who delivers an inspired monologue that nails Star Wars as the white gentrification of the galaxy. You'll be laughing, believe me.

When Holden spots Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), he sets out to stake his claim with manly cool, only to discover that she is not only determinedly gay but also experienced beyond the imagining of his slightly conventional mind. All this is dissected by Holden, Banky, and Alyssa in a wildly lighthearted discussion of oral sex.

Kevin Smith's ear for delivering the outrageous in an absolutely rational voice is his gift to the movies. His entire cast grasps perfectly the relentless video rhythms that Smith has made his own. Ben Affleck moves beautifully from stud to thoughtful listener. Jason Lee, master of the deadpan reaction, shows his emotional pain with great subtlety. Joey Lauren Adams is exactly right as the girl who rattles their assumptions.

The movie takes a turn into substance when Holden and Alyssa realize they are in love. Holden can't understand why Alyssa can't just set aside her preference for women; Alyssa can't understand why Holden doesn't grasp the depth of her orientation. The crestfallen Banky can't understand why his best pal is suddenly thoroughly absorbed with someone else.

Without a trace of self-congratulation, Mr. Smith becomes the first person to portray gay women as something other than a subculture toying with a lesser alternative. Within the safe haven of his torrent of four-letter words, he asks and answers questions with purity and honesty. Appearing for a moment as Silent Bob, with the outlandishly disruptive Jason Mewes at his side, Smith makes a wise and wistful comment on the nature of love.

Just as we are laughing the hardest, he bends his wonderfully eccentric mind to a love story of beguiling gentleness. What might have been an adolescent ramble is lifted high by some very wise and moving insights. You're a big man, Kevin Smith.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 492
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h45m


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