Kevin Smith's third feature, "Chasing Amy", is successful despite being, well, a Kevin Smith movie. It's rife with his typically self-indulgent pseudo-sophisto babbling, "Star Wars" references, shamelessly graphic sex-talk, and underlying homoeroticism. But what makes it interesting, and worth watching, is that it explores the emotional underbelly of topics Smith often equivocates, but is usually too self-conscious to confront.
To Smith what "Liberty Valance" was to Ford, the film finds the auteur digging for something pregnant amongst his own perverted brand of comedy. It's no surprise Smith himself -- as his alter ego Silent Bob -- delivers the eponymous anecdote about the girl that got away, perhaps as a means of venting something personal and true. "Chasing Amy" shows a side of Smith we'd never seen before -- or since.
A romcom love triangle with a 90's-hipster twist, the movie finds Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee), creators of a popular comic book called Bluntman and Chronic, signing issues at a convention when Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), a nerd's goddess with a girlish rasp and a wit like a razor, drops between them. Holden falls in love with what he thinks is the perfect girl. The twist: she's a lesbian.
But the sexual boundaries in Smith's world are highly malleable. Even after Alyssa goes "straight" just for him, Holden finds himself chasing a dream, an ideal Alyssa can't possibly live up to. She's a sexual enchantress, but also unspoiled, virginal. When her high school promiscuity comes to light it challenges Holden's buried feelings of emasculation. To the side of their tumultuous relationship sits Banky, angrily jealous, not of Holden, but of Alyssa.
His obsession with his best friend -- not to mention his rampant homophobia -- rings the obvious alarm bells, but Smith's concept suggests that when we love the individual not the gender, the purest connections often take shape. But human beings are, ultimately, fragile and self-destructive creatures that can't see the forest for the trees. Furthermore, Smith uses the comic book trope of secret identities as a device for his characters to hide from their own sexual regrets and insecurities. To call his film tolerant, progressive, and even profound would not be an overstatement.
"Chasing Amy" finds the chinks in our sexual armor, the ubiquitous kryptonite that can destroy even the most perfect of relationships. Smith doesn't just probe into sexual conducts and gender roles, turn a tired genre on its head, or expose the 90's-dating scene equivalent of Fitzgerald's unattainable dream, he peers with confidence into the churning mechanism that drives his own interests. It proves that behind the snarky, "Star Wars"-geek facade, there is a born romantic fighting to save the lovelorn from relationship peril.