Ok, hold on to your asses because we’ve got a lot to cover with Chasing Amy. This is one of those films that I really had to try hard to finish. I mean right from the get go, I knew that this was going to be tough for me. From the characters and their personalities to the dialogue, it was so painfully obvious what kind of film this was going to be. The words dated and offensive came to mind as I was watching it all unfold in front of me. Now I realize that this film was heavily praised by critics at the time of its release (1997) and yes I can see why, and yes it has good things in it… but for me the negatives outweigh the positives.
Our film starts off with two best friends who are comic book artists, Holden and Banky. They are both introduced to Alyssa, who’s a friend of one of their friends. After initially meeting, Alyssa invites them out to a club one night. Holden is smitten with Alyssa and really believes he has a chance with her, but little does he know that she’s a lesbian. He finds this out when she starts making out with this girl at the club. He’s heartbroken by this but he and Alyssa remain friends since they get along well. The main plot of the film centers around their relationship and what all comes from that, and believe me a lot does.
The plot of this film can easily become problematic, and maybe it’s because of the time at which this was made. The main character, Holden, falling for Alyssa (who’s a lesbian) presents this very cloudy and negative image of lesbians as a whole. The saying that douchebag homophobes use: “she just needs a good dicking down” could be thought of as true in a scenario like this. “She was a lesbian until she met him” is an extremely homophobic trope that’s insulting to everyone’s intelligence. Oh and just FYI one of the characters actually uses that saying at one point which is why it was hard to sit through at times. So not only is that a glaring problem, but also there’s the blatant negative representation of lesbians. This film doesn’t hold back on its mission to make the entirety of lesbians seem like “man hating dykes” (another phrase used in this film).
An example of this is when Holden and Alyssa start dating. Alyssa reveals that she’s seeing a man to her lesbian friends and they all give her a look like homophobic parents would give their kid if they said they were gay. They ridicule her and one even says “another one bites the dust”. Another moment where the audience’s intelligence is insulted. Not only is all of this extremely harmful to the LGBTQ community, but it’s just stupid. It shows a complete lack of understanding when it comes these issues.
As far as the script goes there are both pros and cons. The pros include the conversations between Holden and Alyssa. There is actually some pretty good dialogue between the two characters, like for instance when she is explaining how sex isn’t just for a man and a woman. Alyssa attempts to enlighten Holden about the way same sex intimacy works and that societal standards don’t mean everything. As this and a couple other scenes between them unfolded, I thought this film might turn around…. I was wrong. The cons include just about every single time Banky’s character opens his inept mouth. There are whole scenes where Banky just goes on and on with these nonsensical homophobic/sexist rants.
I couldn’t count how many times fag, f----t, and dyke were used, mainly by Banky. And I might get past that or see some meaning in it if I thought there was going to be some form of redemption. Maybe if his character eventually saw the error of his ways or if he was homophobic to hide his own sexuality. But spoiler alert nothing really does, something is mentioned, but then it’s tossed aside and you’re forced to realize that’s just him.
The other huge con is the scene where Jay and Silent Bob come in. I could’ve done without this entire scene, well except for the tail end where Bob tells his “Chasing Amy” story. The small part where Bob tells his “one who got away” story is actually good but everything else is just inept. Middle school level, unfunny, offensive humor laced with gay slurs. I would’ve been overjoyed if Jay would’ve just been completely erased — he brought nothing of any value or importance to the film. That’s another thing about this movie: the humor that’s served up isn’t the least bit funny. I think I only chuckled once. This is a huge disappointment considering that many scenes attempt humor, and you’re forced to just sit there and watch it fall flat.
I wish the negatives weren’t so large, because the positives are really good. Joey Lauren Adams is a great actress and gives a top notch performance as Alyssa. She makes Alyssa very real, she’s a character you’ll root for from the very beginning. Ben Affleck does a good job playing his role, he brings a very passionate energy to it and you buy him as this person. As far as Jason Lee is concerned, he isn’t a bad actor, he actually gives a pretty good performance, but his character is just so painfully unlikable that every time he came onscreen I was tempted to turn it off. If I’m being completely honest, there are only 2 or 3 things that kept me from giving up on this. Adams and her character Alyssa, Affleck and his character Holden, and then some of the dialogue between those two.
Maybe people will disagree since this film seems to be loved by many, but to me, Chasing Amy is largely a misfire. The representation of the LGBTQ community is wildly false, none of the humor works, and several characters are simply annoying and pointless to the story. With all that said, the two main characters are very interesting and well played by the leads. But the bad outweighs the good, so no recommendation from me for Chasing Amy.