by Rob DiCristino
I’ve had a signed Chasing Amy poster hanging in my home for the last twenty years. The DVD was the first Criterion disc I ever bought, my introduction to a label that would open countless cinematic doors in the years to come. As I’ve mentioned on many a podcast, the Amy commentary track was my high school white noise machine; I drifted off to the dulcet tones of Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and the rest of the View Askew gang more nights than I care to admit, eventually memorizing the beats of their conversation just as well as I had those of the movie itself. I would practice Holden’s “I love you” speech in the shower, hoping beyond hope that I’d soon meet a fantastically open-minded lesbian of my very own, or at least someone whose romantic expectations had also been so thoroughly corrupted by movies that they would be thrilled to sit quietly, mouth agape, while I delivered self-indulgent and ultimately misguided monologues on matters of the heart about which I had barely a novice’s level of expertise.
For his part, Smith is more than candid about his film’s outdated gender and sexual politics — shortcomings that a parade of Zoomer talking heads are quite eager to outline in detail — and remains committed to framing Amy as an avenue of personal expression that never presumed knowledge of the LGBTQ experience. Whether or not that’s an excuse for Banky’s strident homophobia or Alyssa’s surprising heel-turn is entirely up to the viewer — I’ve always argued that both are justified within the text — and even Rodgers notes that Amy was a safe haven primarily because he didn’t know that other queer films, perhaps more representative of his experience, even existed. This section of Chasing Chasing Amy grows into a poignant analysis of what I’ve called the Garden State Phenomenon: That Chasing Amy is outdated is not a strike against it or those who have found comfort in it during their formative years. Art can and should be used and disused in support of personal growth; a thing is not beautiful because it lasts.
Chasing Chasing Amy premiers at the Tribeca Film Festival and in limited theatrical release today.