The film starts out in a comic convention, where we are introduced to Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), the co-creators of the smash hit book “Bluntman and Chronic.” Holden is an artist who feels trapped into his commercial success, afraid he’ll always be known as “the guy who invented Bluntman and Chronic.” His partner and best friend of 20 years, Banky, is justifiably unapologetic for their success; he likes having his name on something that everyone recognizes. It’s …t this convention that Holden has his first encounter with the endearing Alyssa Jones. A week after the encounter, a phone call from their mutual friend and fellow author, Hooper, informs Holden that Alyssa has invited him to a bar in the city.
When they arrive at the bar (“Meow Mix”), Holden finds Alyssa just before she is lured on stage to sing a heartfelt, sultry song. Holden is absolutely convinced that he the impetus behind her crooning. Unfortunately for him the subject of Alyssa’s throaty singing turns out to be the blond woman standing just in front of him. The respective countenance changes in Holden and Banky at this revelation and how opposite they are is priceless. Holden tries to come to grips with a fact that we have all probably had to deal with at some point. No matter what, he and Alyssa can never be more than friends; she’s a lesbian. We are led to believe through a well done montage that their relationship as friends grows strong, they hang out often and do all sorts of fun stuff from skee-ball to drawing their comics together. While this friendship is gathering steam and developing strength, the fortitude of Holden’s friendship with Banky begins to be tested. Banky is suspicious of Alyssa’s motives and believes his duty as a friend is to keep Holden’s feet on the ground. It’s in this sequence we run into the scene that changes the film: the hockey scene. This changes the movie from buddy movie with a little romance thrown in to a romantic comedy with balls. On the strength of some sage, Silent Bob brand advice, Holden thinks he figures out a remedy to the situation. The climax is sad and almost tragic, no matter what you are expecting.
The actors who played the three main characters put on some of the most outstanding performances I have ever seen. Yes, even Ben Affleck! Watch the absolutely phenomenal scene when Holden reveals his feelings to Alyssa. Watch the genuine emotion on Holden’s face when he hears the words coming out of his mouth, then watch as Alyssa (Golden Globe nominee Joey Lauren Adams) recoils and strikes back in the rain. Another fine example of how underrated the acting in this movie was is the scene between Holden and Banky, when Banky draws the $100 bill as a lesson to Holden. It’s these scenes, with long thoughts and complicated sentences, which really evince the true talent of Kevin Smith: sharp, witty, intelligent dialogue. It’s a shame that he’s gone away from this stuff in his more recent fare, because it only makes Chasing Amy the clearly defined artistic highlight of his career. He might be overrated now by his cultish fanbase of worshippers, but this movie is the reason he’s rated at all. It’s Chasing Amy and its fine performances, thought-provoking situations, great humor and emotional resonance that makes the Dogmas of his resume so disappointing. Chasing Amy is a must see.
Given the low, low budget of Chasing Amy, Smith and co. had to cut costs wherever possible, starting with film stock. Shot in Super 16mm film, Chasing Amy has a gritty, grainy appearance in many spots, and looks like an independent film. Color work is consistent, and very few egregious errors in authoring are to be found. This isn’t a movie that works to challenge a hi-def home theater, but few patrons will base a purchase on that. The biggest strike against Chasing Amy? It’s presented in 1.85:1 NON-anamorphic widescreen. Granted, this is one of the first few Criterions to hit the market, but for a company with such foresight in other areas, to leave this encoding out is a big time slip up, and cost them some serious points.
It’s an intimate sort of film, and the audio format, a Dolby 2.0 mix, reflects that. It’s fantastically clear, and to the engineer’s credit, can be rather dynamic for a two-channel format. Off-screen dialogue is distinctly channeled into the proper locations, and everything seems to be mixed at the right levels. It’s not a film that really would utilize a lot of discrete audio effects, save for perhaps the scenes at the hockey rink and the torrential downpour after Holden’s confession. All in all, a good audio presentation; the music sounds great, too.
Usually, Criterion leaves little doubt with how to score their extras packages. They’re almost uniformly overflowing, containing supplements that reflect the film from many different angles. In that regard, Chasing Amy is a bit of a disappointment, but that’s merely a result of the high bar set by this production house. From a DVD fan standpoint, this package works just fine. The package starts with an introduction by director and fanboy favorite Kevin Smith and ends with the color bars, and everything in between is significant, funny and well organized.
Give the rather long list of menu choices, and I decided to start small, with the film’s theatrical trailer. It’s a tough movie to sell, and Miramax’s trailer makes it look rather “cookie cutter rom com.” The section titled Color Bars has a funny introduction by what has to be a stoned Jason (the “Jay” in “Jay and Silent Bob”) Mewes, but basically sticks to the name: they’re just color bars. Moving on, there are TEN deleted scenes, each with an intro by Kevin Smith and company, each intro with an explanation for why the scenes were deleted in the first place. Highlights of this section include the original opening, shot in the comic book store where the intros were taped (the dialogue is excerpted from a negative review of Smith’s previous film Mallrats), as well as some important supplemental dialogue between Banky and Holden entitled “Mata-f*cking-hari!” Each one of the scenes is well worth watching, and the explanations make a lot of sense. On the end of the deleted scenes section we see several outtakes, all of which are very, very funny.
The commentary track has its own index, which basically mirrors the chapter selection on the disc, but with different titles. Usually, the commentary subjects you to a bunch of masturbatory film school jargon by a haughty, egotistical director or producer. Here, Ben Affleck, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosher, Jay Mewes, and a Miramax executive all sat in the same room and talked about the movie. Unlike most commentary tracks, it never comes off as self-congratulatory or pretentious. I found myself dropping in and out of it in certain scenes because I wanted to hear what they had to say, about the performance or the set or the actors. Definitely give it a listen. From a Criterion standpoint, this isn’t their most memorable effort in bonus material, but it’s no slouch, either.
Chasing Amy is like a great John Hughes movie. It’s a movie that deals with “Generation X” with decaying into the typical “GenX” relationship flick like the insulting Reality Bites. It deals with sex in a mature, but not prudish way. It raises issues about sexuality, from orientation to the importance of history of a partner, in a way both mature and irreverent at the same time. It doesn’t preach when it shows the consequences of dishonesty, but it doesn’t flinch either. So many complicated issues of friendship, girlfriends, relationships, self-faithfulness and sexuality are dealt with that it makes this what I thought couldn’t exist: the cerebral date movie. The low asking price, solid supplemental package and a strong, strong film Chasing Amy almost a must-have from a DVD collector and Film Fan perspective.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Production Notes
- Ten Deleted Scenes
- Special Poster Insert
- New Video Introduction
- Video Introductions From the Cast and Crew