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Kevin Smith’s film delivers wit on romance

Mary Squillace | Tuesday, October 11, 2005

We all know how the story usually goes. Boy meets girl, or girl meets boy. Their relationship falls into jeopardy through trials and tribulations of some shape or form. Then, yadda, yadda, right at the end, probably with some Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You,” playing in the background, the two finally find a way to overcome and live happily ever after.

This standard is safe, but frankly boring after hundreds of retellings of the same fairy-tale contemporary romances.

“Chasing Amy” (1997) on the other hand, is anything but safe or boring with its portrayal of romance. Instead, not even the simple boy-meets-girl label can be applied to this film. Where typical romantic comedies rely on convention and paradigmatic plotlines, Kevin Smith’s (“Mallrats,” “Dogma”) film intertwines compelling questions about sexuality with a romantic plight that defies the ordinary.

In this less-than-simplistic romance, comic book artist Holden (Ben Affleck) falls for Alyssa, whom he soon learns is a lesbian. Aside from the obvious complications in getting their relationship off of the ground, the overwhelming disapproval of Holden’s best friend, Banky (Jason Lee), Alyssa’s past, as well as Holden’s present insecurities drive a rift between the couple. Consequently, the hurdles within Holden and Alyssa’s relationship drive a constant stream of salient dialogue between the verbose characters, drawing attention to a wide range of issues regarding sex and sexuality.

Smith shelves delicacy and broaches difficult topics with boldness that he delivers with enough wit and perspective to prevent his film from becoming didactic or one sided in the opinions it expresses. He provides the questions, but lets his viewers come up with all of the answers.

All of this considered, the film is still punctuated with Smith’s idiosyncrasies as a filmmaker, including his irreverent and raunchy sense of humor. However, “Chasing Amy” surpasses Smith’s other films, such as “Mallrats” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” in the way that the comedy lends itself to making points that hold up as more than mere punch-lines.

From Lee’s cynical, whiny Banky to Dwight Ewell’s Hooper X, a militant black man and closeted homosexual who disguises his sexuality under his fierce, exaggerated exhibitions of allegiance to the Black Panther Party, the film features a memorable cast of characters. Joey Lauren Adams (“Big Daddy”) is also endearing as the film’s unconventional leading lady, conveying both Alyssa’s attractive quirkiness as well has her emotional sincerity.

While he has a tendency to be flat and unremarkable in most of his films, Affleck also delivers with his role as Holden. His role as the hapless suitor and hopeless romantic appears genuine, as well as his onscreen chemistry with Adams.

As hilarious as it is thought-provoking, and with a degree of crudeness that provokes an “ew” for every “aw” the romantic monologues prompt, “Chasing Amy” succeeds in bringing unique and daring subject matter to the screen.

All Notre Dame and St. Mary’s students will have a chance to catch “Chasing Amy” Thursday following Ha’s 10 p.m. performance at Legends. The screening is part of Legends’ weekly “Brew and View” and offers students a chance to enjoy drinks, free tater tots and the atmosphere of Legends while watching a variety of movies. Past Views have included “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Happy Gilmore” and “Jaws.” On Thursday, Oct. 27, View will feature “Beavis and Butthead Do America.”