Something Personal to Say

Chasing Chasing Amy

by Hope Madden

Nearly 30 years ago, Kevin Smith did what he does best. He made a film so simple, so personal, so deeply human, so profoundly myopic, so densely problematic, so deeply heterosexual-white-dude that it was hard not to simultaneously hate and love it. In fact, of all Smith’s movies, his 1997 straight-boy-falls-for-lesbian romcom Chasing Amy fits that (rather lengthy) bill best.

Hell, just being the indie darling of 1997 – pinnacle Weinstein era – creates additional problems, let alone the way Smith’s script funhouse mirrors his offscreen relationship with the star (Joey Lauren Adams, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her vivid performance).

Whew, that’s a lot to unpack, and it’s not even the primary focus of Chasing Chasing Amy. For documentarian Sav Rodgers, stumbling across Smith’s film in his parents’ stash of Ben Affleck flicks as a kid saved his life. Literally. During his toughest times, Rodgers would watch the film every day. He’d never seen queer people in a film before. And he wanted to believe that one day he would find the kind of love Holden (Affleck) expressed for Alyssa (Adams).

And yet.

For many (most?) in the LGBTQ community, Chasing Amy is nothing if not problematic. So, what begins as Sav’s odyssey through the film’s New Jersey landmarks turns into an investigation into the movie’s queer depictions, then becomes an enduring friendship with Smith himself before turning into a remarkable examination of the seedy state of independent film in 1997. And that alone would be more than worth the price of admission.

Indeed, Rodgers gets better, more insightful talking head interviews for this doc than I’ve seen in any documentary in the last several years. Guinevere Turner (who wrote 1997’s Go Fish and partly inspired the character of Alyssa), in particular, is a treasure.

But even as Rodgers’s film metamorphosizes, so does its filmmaker. Because Rodgers is himself a large part of his film – the film’s impact on his own life did inspire the documentary – the director cannot help but document his own journey. And not his journey as a filmmaker, but as a trans man.

Rodgers possesses sharp storytelling instincts and a cinematic presence so sincere and authentic it could break your heart. You come away from this film hoping genuinely for his happiness and waiting eagerly for his next film.

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