Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chasing Amy (Smith. 1997)

"She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So, I've spent every day since then chasing Amy..."

I am not sexist. I am active in the fight for women’s rights and I was practically raised by only women.  I do not believe in the double standard that says a woman who has multiple sexual partners is a whore, while a man with the same is some sort of stud. Does that mean I support having sex with a ton of people? Absolutely not.  I don’t endorse the double standard because I believe that anybody who randomly has sex or does sexual acts with a variety of people is doing something bad. I may have very loose morals in some respects, but I take sex very seriously.  I do not have any religious pre-disposition or anything like that, I just believe that people should take be more willing to wait for love. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

I am fully aware that sex is fun. I mean, I have it. But I have only ever had it with two people – both of whom I romantically loved. Am I telling you this to brag? No. I merely would like to be open with any reader and maybe they will be easier on me for being so uneasy after watching Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. I am not saying that I thought the movie was bad, because I didn’t. I just think I related with the wrong character. Kevin Smith is obviously a big supporter of equal sexual-liberation. And honestly, I would love to be as easygoing about sex as he makes some of his characters. But I’m not. It isn’t that Alyssa is a female that bothers me; it is that she is a person in the first place. Man or woman, I am not sure I could be friends with a person like Alyssa. Did I mention that I used to date an Amish girl?...

Chasing Amy tells the story of Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) who work together on a sophomoric comic book, "Blunt Man and Chronic" to significant underground success. Everything is going great for the duo until Holden meets a female comic book writer named Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). After a short, but charismatic conversation over a game of darts, Holden becomes enamored with Alyssa. I could see that happening. They are both kinda grungy people with an abundance of short-sighted opinions and foul stories. There is one problem. Alyssa is a lesbian. 

Taking a break from the story, the aforementioned dart game scene is a perfect example of what you can expect from Kevin Smith’s direction. Like in Clerks, Smith chose to simply set the camera down and allow it to frame the action. “Shooting-style” does not play a part in the movie, but rather the characters always remain the central focus. Most of the time, they are doing something completely mundane or ordinary while having witty, natural-feeling conversations. Writing is Smith’s strongest asset as an artist and filmmaker. His dialogue gives the green light for the actors to tell the story themselves without bells, tricks or whistles. I like the realistic lack of style in Smith’s early movies. It was refreshing then, and it remains that way in the days where Michael Bay forces explosions down a moviegoer’s throat. 

What I don’t like about Chasing Amy specifically is what the movie is about. I think it is exceptional at being about what it is about; I just don’t like my own visceral reaction to watching it. It made me feel like a bad person. Maybe I am. Maybe I totally missed the point. That could have easily happened. Because I personally sympathize with Holden, a lot, and that is not where my head should want to go. 

Alyssa eventually falls for Holden and leaves her gay lifestyle to pursue a heterosexual relationship. In doing so, she tells Holden that she has never been with a man in a sexual or romantic way. In what turned out to be another great cameo, Jay and Silent Bob inform Holden that Alyssa has been with men. In fact, she’d been with two men at the same time. Not them, but rather two men with whom Holden attended high school. Alyssa had “fingercuffed” with two men at the same time, two men Holden knows, two men Holden has hated for several years. 

After this knowledge is passed along, Holden starts to second guess his entire relationship with Alyssa. And why not? She did lie about never being with a man; let alone being with two men at the same time. More of her sex life becomes an issue as the movie progresses and eventually Holden cannot handle it anymore. The demise of their relationship is due to the fact that he cannot get passed her previous sex life and accept that she only wants to be with him now. Of course, Alyssa doesn’t make it easy. Maybe that is my issue. She did lie to him. And instead of ever really apologizing to him for lying, she makes excuses for her past and passes it off as something that shouldn’t be upsetting to Holden. Why wouldn’t it be? He just had a wall dropped on him.

I would never break up with someone because they’ve had sex with more people than me – no matter how icky those situations may seem in my opinion. But if I had learned this information in the way that Holden did I might expect that my girlfriend be patient with me and give me some space. Because I have a feeling Holden was not mad at Alyssa, but rather he was hurt that she lied, embarrassed that he fell for it and uncomfortable about the whole thing. I understand that. I side with Holden. Do I think he takes it too far by the end? Of course I do. I’m a prude, not an animal. 

I think what Chasing Amy did was made me realize that I am a very insecure person. Holden obviously is, and I believe in his cause. What does that say about me? What does it say about anyone who agrees with me or him? Kevin Smith did maybe what he was trying to do. His movie has forced me to do some serious self-reflecting. So far, I am embarrassed about what I have found. I think that might make it an important movie...

Chasing Amy: B+

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