Tag Archives: Kevin Smith

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.

Not Even Supposed to Be Here

Clerks III

by Hope Madden

In 2017, Danny Boyle returned to Scotland with T2 Trainspotting. You know, to see how Mark, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie were dealing with middle age. The result was poignant, funny and self-aware.

Writer/director Kevin Smith likewise revisits Leonardo, New Jersey to see how Dante and Randall are faring with their own midlife crises. Again, the result is poignant, funny and self-aware.

I swear to God.

For Clerks IIII, Smith delivers a wild mix of amateurish moments, inspired soundtrack choices (that’s the first time I ever enjoyed My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade), sentiment, callbacks, social commentary, and genuine fondness. The end of the filmmaker’s slacker trilogy delivers an ode to independent filmmaking and his own journey as a filmmaker.

Dante (Brian O’Halloran) reenacts the worst days of his youth every day, wasting his life at the convenience store he now co-owns with bestie Randall (Jeff Anderson). The long-shuttered video store next door is now a cannabis shop run by Silent Bob (Smith) and Jay (Jason Mewes), naturally.

After Randall has a heart attack behind the counter, he decides the only way to give his life meaning is to film a movie of his antics at the convenience store.

Essentially, Clerks.

Smith’s style remains a weird mix of sincerity and irreverence. For that reason—and because his leads are the least talented actors onscreen—Clerks III sometimes lands as cloying. But both Anderson and O’Halloran also offer surprising emotional depth here, especially Anderson.

Smith brings back nearly every “actor” who populated his ’94 breakout, and a few of the main players from its 2006 sequel. There’s also a lengthy montage of auditions for Randall’s movie, which allows Smith to fill the screen with other recognizable faces.

The whole movie’s an inside joke, but if you’re on the inside, it’s bound to draw a smile. More than that, if you’re a Kevin Smith fan, Clerks III is a sincere mash note to you.

The Kevin Smith Movie, Evolved


by Hope Madden

In 2010, I had the chance to interview writer/director Kevin Smith. The proposed subject was Smith’s SModcasts – comic podcasts co-hosted by Smith and his buddy Scott Mosier – but I had other ideas. I knew Smith, a filmmaker most known for his juvenile comedies, was putting the finishing touches on his first horror film, Red State, and I was giddy to find out more about that.

Smith told me, “For years I’ve called myself a filmmaker, but it’s not really true. Really I just make Kevin Smith Movies. I’m at that stage where I could make a Kevin Smith Movie with my eyes closed. Let me see if I can make another movie.”

Too few people saw Red State, a flawed but fascinating film that boasted an absolutely mesmerizing performance by Tarantino favorite Michael Parks, but Smith knew he had something great in this actor. Wisely, when the filmmaker returned to horror with this year’s Tusk, he did so with Parks in tow.

Though Tusk is a surreal, utterly bizarre horror comedy, it is without question Smith’s most personal work as a filmmaker. The film follows a podcaster (Justin Long) who travels to an isolated cabin in Canada to record conversations with a recluse (Parks). The podcaster hopes to bring a good story of a weirdo back for the next show, but this story proves a little too weird.

The basic idea, in fact, comes from one of Smith’s actual SModcasts. He found online a letter from a man seeking a lodger, and he and Mosier read it aloud and mocked the man and giggled – the general MO for the show. But somewhere in all that, Smith found the story of man losing his humanity.

Yes, Tusk is a comic riff on The Human Centipede. It’s also an insightful kind of stress dream, so close to home for Smith that, even with all its utter ludicrousness, it feels almost confessional.

Once again, the greatest strength in the film is a hypnotic performance by Parks as the old seafarer with nefarious motives. He’s magnificent, and Long’s work is strongest when the two share the screen.

Smith’s tone shifts wildly from absurd comedy to real terror, but given the film’s insane premise, the approach works because nothing is ever what you expect. Like Johnny Depp as a French Canadian Inspector Clouseau.

There is no film quite like Tusk, certainly not in Smith’s arsenal, which, I suppose, means this is not a Kevin Smith Movie. And yet, there’s more Smith in this film than in anything else he’s made.


Fright Club Friday: Red State

Red State (2011)

I actually got to talk to Kevin Smith about a year before Red State was released. Our official topic was his Smodcasts, but given my particular weakness for genre filmmaking, I veered the questions toward his forthcoming entrance into horror.

He told me: “For years I’ve called myself a filmmaker, but it’s not really true. Really I just make Kevin Smith movies. I’m at that stage where I could make a Kevin Smith Movie with my eyes closed. Let me see if I can make another movie.”

That other movie was Red State – an underrated gem. Deceptively straightforward, Smith’s tale of a small, violently devout cult taken to using the internet to trap “homos and fornicators” for ritualistic murder cuts deeper than you might expect. Not simply satisfied with liberal finger wagging, Smith’s film leaves no character burdened by innocence.

The usually stellar Melissa Leo chews more scenery than need be as a devoted apostle, but pastor Abin Cooper spellbinds as delivered to us by Tarantino favorite Michael Parks. Never a false note, never a clichéd moment, Parks’s award-worthy performance fuels the entire picture.

There’s enough creepiness involved to call this a horror film, but truth be told, by about the midway point it turns to corrupt government action flick, with slightly lesser results. Still, the dialogue is surprisingly smart, and the cast brims with rock solid character actors, including John Goodman, Stephen Root, and Kevin Pollak.

Smith said at the time: “I think we have something. It’s creepy and very finger-on-the-pulse and very much about America.”