Dueling Film Reviews - Round One: WHayes on "Chasing Amy"

Posted 3/26/2010 by WHayes in Labels: , , , , ,
Its a typical feeling: you watch a great movie, and can't wait to pop it in again. The second viewing opens new doors: since you know where the story leads, you can focus your attention on the journey. You pick up the little character quirks you hadn't seen before, notice easter eggs the director inserted as shout-outs to earlier films or beloved influences, and get to analyze how the actors conveyed the emotion that hit you with that hard twinge of empathy.

Its in this field that Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy cruelly plays with my emotions. The story follows three New York artists, in varying stages of both success and satisfaction with their careers making comic books, as they navigate the often nasty tightrope of love and sexual identity. It's boy meets girl but finds she's a lesbian and falls for her anyway. Whether the situation is plausible (or has happened) in real life is irrelevant. Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee sell Smith's story well. The acting may get hammy sometimes, but they were all 20somethings at this point, so its easy to ignore the occasional hiccup.

Upon first viewing, Smith's witty and honest take on relationships and obstacles that can destroy them blew my mind so thoroughly that I forgot I was watching it with a date. I started rehashing my past relationships, smiling at the highs and -- even stranger -- coming to grips with the lows, the fights, and the failings as though I'd just gotten four months of professional counseling. I was psyched, ready to call every ex with a heartfelt and empathetic gesture of "I understand now," cresting some invisible wave made of the lifeblood of every loving moment or bitter breakup I'd experienced over the past six years...and then I watched it again.

Chasing Amy -- brilliant, brilliant Chasing Amy -- has the replay value of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; you can watch it, but shit's gonna bug you. How the fuck did this happen? Who flipped the switch? Thankfully the problem is localized: the story stays strong, but the dialogue that once seemed so core now feels contrived and overwritten:

I've never had a screaming/shoving match go this well before, where everyone involved said exactly what was bothering them despite the tears, snot, and passers by. I was always the guy who, even if I was right, would get choked up on my own delusions of eloquent "fuck yous" and slip into a half-mumble. There's Amy's problem: its too perfect, too idealistic (even though I love it for it) in its pursuit of cutting away the typical rom-com bullshit in showing that yes, people torpedo relationships for ridiculous reasons that distract them from why their bond was so strong. Sometimes you don't why everything came crashing down until much later, and while at first the spectacle of a couple fighting (fighting!) in the way you always wished you could feels refreshing, that very fantasy makes it hard to return to the same territory again. When the magic fades, it leaves you wanting something more like what you've actually experienced, rather than what you've always imagined.

Make no mistake, this is still a movie you need to see. Watch it with someone you love.

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