'Chasing Chasing Amy' Review: Kevin Smith's Tricky Queer Film Reframed
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘Chasing Chasing Amy’ Review: A nuanced ode to a troubled queer favorite

‘Chasing Chasing Amy’ Review: A nuanced ode to a troubled queer favorite

'Chasing Chasing Amy' Review: Kevin Smith's Tricky Queer Film Reframed

We all have our problematic favorites. Especially if you’ve been watching movies longer than, say, yesterday. The #MeToo showdown not only revealed the monsters in Hollywood’s closet, it also made it impossible to ignore the pervasive sexism, misogyny, and power imbalances that permeate every facet of the industry. It was so pervasive that very few projects went untouched by the stench. In Kevin Smith’s case, his career is directly tied to Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax, which produced and distributed four of his early films, including one of his biggest hits, “Chasing Amy.”

Released in 1997, “Chasing Amy” followed Smith’s debut hit “Clerks” and sophomore flop “Mallrats”. The film stars Joey Lauren Adams as an effortlessly cool lesbian and Ben Affleck as her willful straight man who falls in love with her—with her and eventually seduces her out of her. Funny, romantic, and a completely straight man’s fantasy, “Chasing Amy” reinforced the idea that every hot lesbian was just waiting for a man to turn her on by the cock. Told entirely from the point of view of a straight man, the film conveniently ignores the obvious existence of bisexuality, while enshrining an iconic bisexual character.

For director Sav Rodgers, who grew up in Kansas in the late 1990s, “Chasing Amy” was both an obsession and a lifeline. His awe-inspiring documentary ‘Chasing Chasing Amy’ comes to terms with ‘Chasing Amy’s’ queer heritage — warts and all. Based on Rodgers’ ardent fandom, “Chasing Chasing Amy” is a messy love letter to a film that otherwise might have been quietly hidden away in the archives of queer cinema history. At the time, mainstream lesbian films were exceedingly rare, though not entirely absent from the independent film circles Smith came across (more on that later). Sure, Smith’s middle-aged fans who run comic book shops in New Jersey will always remember him fondly, but what about the queer kids who discovered something about themselves in Amy’s leather jacket and husky-voiced bravado? What are we supposed to do with our vastly different experiences of the sexy, yet profoundly misguided slacker comedy?

As a queer adult, Rodgers isn’t blind to the film’s flaws and gives them enough air in the documentary. They’re told extensively and entertainingly by “Go Fish” writer Guinevere Turner (always a great interview), who stars in “Chasing Amy” and inspired the script, as Smith says in the documentary. Turner met Smith at Sundance in 1994, the pivotal year of the debut of “Go Fish” and “Clerks.” Both films were shot in black and white; both were made on shoestring budgets; and both were character-driven, conversational comedies. One was about lesbians, the other about straight men. And only one of those filmmakers has had a mainstream career. guess which?

“Chasing Chasing Amy”

“Kevin has an empire, and we were just lesbians,” says Turner, who has made peace with the “lovable and heartfelt” film after many years of “lesbian rage.” For her part, Smith is deferential to Turner’s influence on him at the time, openly admitting that the story of “Chasing Amy” was inspired by Turner’s romantic friendship with her longtime producer Scott Mosier. Such frankly animated interviews from whoever stirs and stirs the ’90s indie scene are a highlight of “Chasing Chasing Amy,” but they’re not the film’s only focus.

As the title suggests, “Chasing Chasing Amy” is also about Rodgers’ coming out process – first as queer and then trans – and how “Chasing Amy” fits into his personal narrative. The documentary begins with a 2019 TED Talk titled “How Chasing Amy Saved My Life,” which includes a cheesy image from the video racking up views and comments coming in. in their interviews. Smith is visibly moved by Rodgers’ positive experience with “Chasing Amy”, saying, “You gave me my movie back.”

The film drags when it loses sight of this magic, as when Rodgers visits various places in New Jersey where the movie was filmed or the attention extended to his sweet but completely ordinary relationship. The personal elements of queer discovery are obviously meant to balance the thornier parts of the real story, one about a film that was meaningful but deeply flawed. This is a weak spot in Rodgers’ fandom: For all her obsession with “Chasing Amy,” she doesn’t love the movie enough to let it speak for itself.

One person with a lot to say is Joey Lauren Adams, whose big solo interview is surprisingly moving, heartfelt, and infuriating at the same time. Adams dated Smith at the time of “Chasing Amy” and her character is infused with many of her quirks, not to mention the very real relationship problems Smith solved through the character of Affleck. While she is heartened by the film’s queer fans, her experience of her has been very different. “I don’t like looking back at that moment,” she says, recalling the unease she felt around Weinstein. “We all knew who she was.”

Adams’ career never really took off after her season of It Girl, when she earned a Golden Globe nomination for “Chasing Amy” and endured questions about her sexuality while doing late night rounds. Like Turner, she’s continued to find work in Hollywood, but she’s still known primarily as a supporting actor in the realm of Kevin Smith.

Rodgers doesn’t seem to know what to do with these inconvenient truths, even though he knows enough to give the interview pride of place. He never presses Smith about his relationship with Weinstein or follows up on any of Adams’ or Turner’s musings. There is much more to “Chasing Amy” than the double erasure of the 90s: the film has proved to be a fascinating microcosm of the continuing effects of Hollywood sexism. In Turner’s wit and Adams’ pain, we glimpse the brilliant women who have been sidelined in favor of childish men in this tiny corner of Hollywood. All the pieces are there in “Chasing Chasing Amy,” but it all came off as a bit unwieldy for what is essentially a Kevin Smith fan film, albeit a charming one.

Grade: B

“Chasing Chasing Amy” premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.

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