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[Debate] – Does It Hold Up: ‘Chasing Amy’

 

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Posted December 14, 2015 by

 
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When we look at if a film still holds up, we cannot just look at how we feel about the film as we are older and wiser, but how it reflects society and how it could affect our lives. In a world that is just now moving forward with human rights and equality – specifically gay rights and equality – we have to look at films that would now be described as “Before their time.” Seeing how gay rights are front and center with the world, mainly the United States, let’s take a look at that societal aspect and dive into Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. This is Smith’s self-proclaimed best film and it seems that fans and critics would agree. Although this is his self-proclaimed best, does that mean that 18 years later it could still impact the world or it reflects what society feels about the subject? We will dissect a couple of ideas of what this movie is about and figure out if it holds up.

I do not like to spend time explaining the synopsis of the movie. Here is the IMDB spark-note version and then we can get into it. “Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s gay.” We are going to look at the cast of the film and their performances, Alyssa and Holden’s friendship, and Holden’s feelings toward Alyssa to figure out of this movie holds up and makes sense today. Let’s get started.

The cast is very relevant to today. Ben Affleck is bigger than ever, Jason Lee is a household name, Jay and Silent Bob withstood the test of time and have a cult following that love them. At the time, Joey Lauren Adams had a good run in film and television, and has recently made a resurgence in Switched at Birth and Grey’s Anatomy (she has made a lot of appearances in smaller films and television, but these are the most well-known). I would argue that this is the perfect cast for this film and the dynamic between everyone flows perfectly. In complete transparency, I am a bit bias on the cast as Affleck is a favorite of mine in anything. This film is not just about Holden and Alyssa, but it’s about Holden’s relationship with everyone, including himself. The friendship between Banky and Holden is a rocky one that starts out just like how you and your best friend are right now. The further into the relationship that Holden wants to get, the further he grows from Banky. He does not grow as a character until his self-realization, but his relationships take the hit first. In life, we all get caught up with our physical and emotional relationship with someone that we want to become our companion – this is represented fantastically in this film. His falling away from Banky represents any man or woman that falls in love with someone – we get out of tune with them and completely in tune with our new person. It’s a part of our natural instinct. I would have guessed that Lee and Affleck were best friends in real life and had a similar falling out because I never really saw them together again. This juxtaposition of emotions probably does not come clear to a lot of viewers because they are focusing on Holden and Alyssa – this relationship is building – and not focusing on Holden and Banky whose relationship is falling apart even though they built their lives and success together. This reflects every relationship we have ever been in in some sense of the case. These characters grow, but in polarizing directions. The only character that stays the same throughout and stays true to himself is Banky. We know what he stands for, we know every thought that is in his head, and we know this person in real life. Banky is actually the person who loses the most in this film. Watch it from his perspective and watch him lose his partnership, his best friend, and be looked down upon by Holden who did not know how to deal with Alyssa and took it out on Banky. He seemingly judges everyone harshly in this film, but in reality he is the one being judged the harshest for just being himself and being honest.

Now let’s shift to Holden and Alyssa’s friendship. We are not going to focus on the relationship that Holden wants and what eventually somewhat happens, we are only focusing on their friendship. Watch this movie and take out any character sexuality and what do you get? A film about being caught in the friend zone. A film that shows a man falling in love for a girl who is just looking for a best friend and proving the “When Harry Met Sally” fact of men and woman cannot be friends because there is always something sexual that comes in the way. This film can be translated to today, easily, just by the story alone and not worrying about what gender the other person is sexually attracted to. Holden did not care what gender the other person was attracted to, he knew what he wanted – a relationship. Alyssa did not care what gender the other person was attracted to, she knew what she wanted – a best friend. In both cases sexuality does not matter in the world of attraction and relationships. This is where this film has layers and cannot just be viewed “as is.” Smith, in my mind, is a wordsmith and can make dialogue flow seamlessly (maybe a bit raunchy at times) and the interactions between Holden and Alyssa are perfection. You can hear Holden falling more in love with her and you can hear Alyssa just loving being near Holden as a friend, as her rock. Since we just went into the writing, let’s not ignore the speech that Silent Bob gives, which gives us the title, Chasing Amy. Everyone in this world has chased Amy. It hits home. When we learn more about another person’s past we get jealous and then we realize what we did and how stupid we were. The film teaches us we cannot win when this happens. It is true to life.

Now let’s go into Holden and his feelings toward Alyssa – we will also go into Holden’s feelings about himself and what he learns and what we learn on this journey. Every person in this world has had feelings toward someone that only wanted them as a friend. He was attracted to Alyssa physically and emotionally, this is where we focus on the chase. “Most persistent traveler on the road,” is how Banky describes Holden at one point and points out that he just wants to get her in bed to “see if he can.” Banky, in my opinion, is right. He is “Holden Fucking McNeil” and once he would get her into bed, he wouldn’t want her anymore – especially because he “changed” her. Holden was not with Alyssa long enough to figure this out, but that is why he was so jealous about the “finger cuffs” nickname, because he had never accomplished this act and was not a part of it with her. He was beaten. The best part of the film for me is when they are in the storm and Holden declares his love for Alyssa. The speech he gives is mesmerizing and is everything that I have ever wanted to say to someone. Affleck gives so much passion and Adams returns the passion. This is where we see the internal struggle, that I believe happens with Holden. He sees someone that he cannot have – a unicorn of sorts. He cannot have her and wants to accomplish his goal so bad that he firmly believes that he loves her. Holden reflects society today, in that, a lot of people do not understand the gay community and their feelings. Holden never uses her being gay as an excuse for him to give up – that is a hard concept to wrap my head around. The world has changed since then, but it has changed for the better and we understand more. The people that are like Holden ignore the fact of what that community wants and only focuses on what they want. During the storm fight Alyssa says, “Do you remember for one fucking second who I am?” The “period of adjustment” is still going on in this world as there are many people like Holden that cannot grasp the concept of other people’s happiness compared to their own. Yes, I know you are saying “But, they get together in that storm and fall for each other.” Do they or is it a moment of passion that makes them both think this is what they want. I will go back to Alyssa’s quote “Do you remember for one fucking second who I am?” We all forget who she is/was and focus now on ‘them’ which is where Banky comes in and makes the most sense of the two of them cannot change and will not change in the end. “This is all gonna end badly.” “You don’t know that.” “I know you.” Re-watch this movie with Banky being your main focus – he is the voice of reason and everything could have been avoided and everyone be a lot happier. Everybody has an agenda.

This film, much like society, is all about perception. I will say that this movie was before it’s time in the sense that it tackled a gay story before it was “accepted.” I will also say that you can take this story and throw it right into today and it makes sense with how people in society react to certain things. In my past when I hear about my significant other’s past, I get very jealous and vice versa. I do not like to talk about my past because I do not want to have to compare notes. It’s a lose/lose situation and that situation alone makes this film timeless. Don’t look at the cinematography that makes this film a 90s film, focus on today’s topics and how we would react today. This film would be more accepted today, but the universal themes of the movie would hit home with anyone in any form of a relationship. There are still people today that believe a gay person can be changed. I just wrote this whole article without focusing on sexuality of the characters, even though this was a big factor of why I wanted to write about this film. In the world it shouldn’t matter what sexuality someone is and it should not matter in this film either. With this, I say that Chasing Amy completely holds up today and was before it’s time with its topics.

I really hope you have learned something about perspective from this article and want to rewatch not only this great film, but all films from other perspectives. Go back and watch Chasing Amy from Banky’s perspective, you will like him a lot more than you did when you first viewed the movie. He is the character that stays true to himself and is the voice of reason. Kevin Smith states that this is his best film to date and I would agree, but it is a different animal than the rest of the catalog of Smith films. They are all the best depending on how you look at it or how it hits home to you. I would put this into a top category of “Relationship Films” and say that this film holds it’s own. Yes the language may detract some viewers, but if they were to just give this a view they would fall in love with it. This is a very real portrayal of a lot of relationships we will have in this world. We all lose best friends at times. We all choose people over other people at times. We all lose ourselves at times. We cannot just deal with what we want, but there has to be a focus on the other person. A lesson that Holden figures out too late – that happens to a lot of us. Yes – this movie holds up.

 

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Drew and Champ

Drew Oliver
@DrewyK
Alone In The Theater
Freelance Contributor

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