chasing amy

chasing amy

1997
Written and Directed: Kevin Smith

The "love that dare not speak its name" has changed quite a bit since Oscar Wilde's time. Homosexuality is more visible than ever before on our screens. The benchmark has shifted, and now the taboo seems to have moved from which gender we sleep with, to the fact that we apparently need to definitively choose which gender we sleep with.

Bisexuality is still the whipping ground of prejudice for gays, lesbians and straight people. Never mind the expression "you can't please some people". Bisexuals don't seem to be able to please anyone. If there was ever a group that needed some positive press, it is the bisexual community. Then along came Chasing Amy.

I'm pretty sure Kevin Smith didn't mean to make a bisexual manifesto. To straight people this film probably doesn't seem that big of a deal, but to some lesbians it was a betrayal of the gay community. I mean, how dare a filmmaker, and a MALE filmmaker at that, dare to conjecture that a woman who says she's lesbian could "be turned" into a straight woman?

There's a big, gaping hole in this argument though. Alyssa, the gay woman in question (Joey Lauren Adams) is not turned straight. Instead, she recognises in herself that it isn't the gender she falls in love with it is the person, and that is a concept that a lot of people struggle to come to terms with.

The story centres on Holden (Ben Affleck), a regular missionary-position white guy who draws dick-joke comic books for a living with his best friend Banky (Jason Lee). When introduced to Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), Holden is immediately attracted but later finds out that Alyssa is gay. At first too weirded by the concept, he makes a scene and walks out, but eventually comes around and the two become friends. Only the friendship is just a mask for deeper feelings, and finally Holden can't deal with it any longer. He confesses he is in love, and Alyssa confesses she is too.

Banky is threatened by Alyssa and does everything he can to dig up dirt on Holden's new "rug munching" girlfriend. Insecure about his own sexual inadequecies and thoroughly intimidated by Alyssa's past, Holden freaks out. Thus begins a chain of events that will lead him to a better understanding of himself and his own prejudices.

On the flip side Alyssa faces her own problems. Ostracised by her gay friends, she's forced to re-evaluate her life, and in the process gives a moving speech on her sexuality and why she's made the choices she has. My bisexual girlfriend at the time was moved to tears by it.

For me this is a film of moments, like the whole movie is a series of sketches, which gives it a slightly disjointed feel. But some of the moments are amazing. Holden and Alyssa kissing in the rain, Alyssa's sexual manifesto, Guinevere Turner's cameo, the "permanent injuries" competition between Alyssa and Banky at Meow Mix, the Hooper X "black rage" fiasco, the compulsory Kevin Smith Star Wars references, and of course the appearance by Jay and Silent Bob.

I love Kevin Smith's entire "Jersey" trilogy. There's an awful lot of in-jokes in Chasing Amy that you simply won't get unless you've seen and enjoyed Clerks and Mallrats. However, that is more of a secondary level of understanding. This film plays perfectly well to audiences without that knowledge.

During the climactic confrontation, Alyssa gets frustrated and screams, "Unlike you, I was not given a fucking road map at birth!" And really, many of us weren't. Even those of us who know who we are now probably experienced a hell of a lot of confusion while getting to this point. It's not the best acted film in the world, this was an independent production after all, and Ben Affleck wasn't the superstar he is now. However, due to a script that is funny, moving and daring, Chasing Amy is a rare insight into the realities of sexual fluidity. I simply don't care that it was made by a dude.

love on the side

love on the side

wave babes

wave babes