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Best friends Holden McNeil and Banky Edwards are enjoying success as the creators of the cult comic book 'Bluntman and Chronic.' When they meet fellow comic book artist Alyssa Jones, Holden's desire for the beautiful charmer is immediate. Alyssa, however, has set her romantic sights elsewhere but decides, nevertheless, to pursue a friendship with Holden. This presents Holden with a dilemma: feeling the way he does, can he merely be friends with this woman? Banky, who knows Holden best, doesn't think so. As the friendship deepens, so do Holden's affections for Alyssa. And cautiously, yet effortlessly, so do Alyssa's for him. With their relationship strugging to define itself, Banky grows more and more frustrated at the notion of losing his best friend to emotional adulthood.
For more about Chasing Amy and the Chasing Amy Blu-ray release, see Chasing Amy Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 13, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Kevin Smith (I), Jason Mewes
Director: Kevin Smith (I)
» See full cast & crew
Chasing Amy Blu-ray Review
"Now that, my friend, is a shared moment..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 13, 2009
When Clerks hurled self-made Sundance wunderkind Kevin Smith into the path of a moving industry payday -- Mallrats, a little six-million dollar studio flop View Askew apologists like myself awkwardly defend to this very day -- he was left battered, bruised, and shaken. Even so, he had no intention of compromising his vision. For his next film, a strategic return to Indie form, Smith struck a deal with Harvey Weinstein and agreed to work with a meager budget of just $250,000; the only money he could get after refusing to cast David Schwimmer, Drew Barrymore, and John Stewart in an exceedingly personal film he had written specifically for Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams (both of whom were relative unknowns at the time). The result? Chasing Amy, a charming, edgy, hilarious, heartfelt romcom that has no business being labeled a mere romantic comedy. With a challenging screenplay, an endearing cast of characters, and some of the sharpest, most honest dialogue to ever emerge from the filmmaker's foul-cortexed brain, Smith was back on top. It was 1994 all over again. Critics showered Chasing Amy with much-deserved praise, audiences wondered what the profane poet would tackle next, and the film became a mainstay in many a home video collection.
After signing autographs at a crowded comicbook convention and making a memorable appearance at a Q&A with provocateur Hooper X (Dwight Ewell), penciler Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and inker Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) meet Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a fellow artist and New Jersey native. Holden takes an immediate liking to Alyssa; an attraction that soon suffers a blow when an invite to a bar culminates in the revelation that she's a lesbian. Hilarity naturally ensues but, as time passes and the two grow to be close friends, Holden decides to declare his love. Suffice to say, all emotional hell breaks loose. Amidst the tearful whirlwind of accusations and insecurities that follow -- most of which revolve around Alyssa's past -- Holden has to deal with a sudden eruption of jealousy, Banky attempts to talk sense into his best friend, and Alyssa struggles to redefine herself and come to terms with her own feelings. It all reaches a bold, daring climax that pits friend against friend, dissects the nature and travails of sexual identity, and explores the roots of genuine love and the deceptive allure of its easily fabricated trappings. Along the way, Smith infuses the film's tragic and dramatic beats with biting humor and smart satire, lending each scene disarming power and unexpected soul.
For all the debate it's inspired, most of it positive, Chasing Amy isn't concerned with sexuality at all. The thrust of Smith's comedy certainly is, but the thematic drive of the film involves a more measured analysis of love itself. Whether it traces back to the cast's raw, increasingly vulnerable performances or Smith's searing screenplay, Holden and Alyssa are more than a flawed, volatile couple adrift in a chintzy romantic comedy; they're a looking glass into the painful, oft-times uncomfortable depths of compassion, empathy, and bitterness. Holden is incapable of overcoming his deep-seated inadequacies and insecurities, failing to communicate so miserably that he continually risks losing everything he's obtained. Alyssa is a prisoner of her own wavering identity; a creature of spontaneity constantly being asked to accept a label she isn't entirely willing to embrace. To that end, Affleck, Adams, and Smith create fully rounded human beings; authentic people searching for purpose and affection in a segregated world that offers none. Smith applies his character quirks wisely, uses jarring jokes sparingly, and reserves outbursts for the most crucial scenes. Chasing Amy proves itself to be a more nuanced, more refined film than anything else in Smith's canon. Without a budget or a prayer, he and his cast were forced to turn inward, the results of which are stronger than any Kevin Smith flick that came before it and more satisfying than any View Askew production flick that's come since.
That being said, the most effective work in Chasing Amy doesn't come from Affleck or Adams, both of whom deliver exceptional performances, but from former skateboarder Jason Lee. Still the only actor I've seen who's able to digest every word of Smith's dense dialogue and spit it back out with the authority and abandon the director's scripts call to mind, Lee is a proverbial lightning rod. With crackling vocal chords and spittle flying, the Mallrats alum launches into each and every line, no matter how potentially offensive or ludicrous, transforming his character from a clichéd caricature into a living, breathing Everyman. His concern for Holden is palpable, his distaste for Alyssa equally so; his curiosity is amusing, his diatribes will leave you rolling on the floor; his conviction is clear, his commitment is unrivaled. Is his character a voice of ignorance and prejudice? Perhaps, but it hardly matters in the context of the film. Surprisingly, for all the credit that's been assigned to Affleck and Adams, Lee often gets overlooked. Sure, he won a 1996 Spirit Award for Best Supporting Performance, but few seem to note how deftly and readily he dominates the film whenever he graces the screen. While Chasing Amy is, for all intents and purposes, Affleck and Adams' story, it's Lee who holds the audience's attention, earns the biggest laughs, and lands the most devastating blows.
Yes, Chasing Amy looks every bit the low-rent production that it is; yes, some of the supporting performances are stilted (albeit thankfully brief, especially compared to those found in Clerks); and yes, a few random gags fall flatter than they did twelve years ago. However, Smith's masterwork remains an infectious comedy, a brazen character drama, and an Indie classic. It may reek of '90s fashion and hairstyles, but the truths at the heart of the film are as funny and familiar today as they were in 1996, a true testament to Amy's staying power and Smith's talents as both a writer and filmmaker.
Chasing Amy Blu-ray, Video Quality
Chasing Amy has never been and will never be the sort of film that drops jaws or turns heads. Shot in twenty days on a cruel and unusually small budget of $250,000, Smith's third outing is rife with soft pickup shots and close-ups, heavy grain, and poorly lit scenes. Unfortunately, the new Blu-ray edition features a mushy 1080p/VC-1 transfer that, quite frankly, fails to faithfully reproduce the original look of the film. Noise reduction is the chief culprit. Grain is still apparent (in some scenes more than others), but it's been beaten into a soupy mess, as have facial textures, fabrics, and edge definition. The actors appear positively malleable at times, their skin smeared and flushed; even close-ups occasionally lack the clarity they should have. Oddly enough, the disc's exclusive documentary, "Tracing Amy," features high definition clips of the film that look much better. Granted, grain is more intrusive and print damage is more apparent in the documentary (ringing is an occasional issue as well), but it becomes quite clear how drastically DNR affected the feature presentation. Compare the comic convention scenes, the swing set conversation, the bar chats... almost everything that briefly appears in the documentary to its counterpart in the film. The main picture is often a bit pudgy, puffy, and gooey by comparison. I was already underwhelmed by the presentation upon initial inspection, but after digging through "Tracing Amy," the sting of disappointment was more severe.
Still, all is not lost. Colors have received a notable boost, black levels are fairly well resolved (aside from some errant mishaps), overall clarity still represents a step up from the aging DVD's presentation (even though it's a minimal one), and Disney's technical transfer is relatively proficient. I didn't detect any significant artifacting, banding, aliasing, or edge enhancement. Regardless, it's tough to get excited about an upgrade that undermines the Indie aesthetic that helped make Chasing Amy stand out from the pre-packaged '90s romantic comedy crowd in the first place. Fans should approach with caution. Smith's third film will never look like a multi-million dollar blockbuster, but it could look a lot better than it does here. As for the score, my gut says 2.5, but my heart says 3.0. Sigh... not the dilemma I was hoping for.
Chasing Amy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Chasing Amy's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is also shrug-worthy. Again, Smith's tragically low budget is responsible for the limited scope of the experience, but Disney's newly minted lossless mix is often a flat, front-heavy affair that doesn't have enough oomph to warrant serious praise. Dialogue is warm and intelligible, but prioritization remains shaky. Ambient noise pays little respect to voices, effects are sometimes accompanied by air hiss, and the film's music doesn't have the presence it's had on other high definition Kevin Smith releases. It doesn't help that rear speaker activity is subdued, LFE output is hunched and humble, normalization is spotty, and dynamics lack the crystal clear punch they desperately need. To be clear, I didn't expect too much more, but the DTS-HD MA track Disney produced for the Blu-ray edition of Clerks -- a film shot for a tenth of Chasing Amy's budget -- is more involving and immersive (its own separate issues notwithstanding). As it stands, Smith's opus deserves better, as does its devoted fanbase.
Chasing Amy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Chasing Amy's supplemental package improves matters. Comprised largely of exclusive content, the Blu-ray edition features an all-new audio commentary, a fantastic, newly produced high definition documentary, a conversation between Smith and Adams, a solid Q&A, and other previously released DVD extras. Unfortunately, the Criterion Collection DVD's hilarious cast and crew commentary is MIA, as are the director's introductions to his deleted scenes. Still, seeing as Disney didn't have the rights to either, it's hardly a point that should be held against the studio or its Blu-ray release.
Chasing Amy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Alas, it doesn't matter how great a film is when it comes to a middle-of-the-road Blu-ray release. Chasing Amy was never going to look or sound like a thirty-seven-million dollar production, but it has more visual and sonic potential than Disney's video transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio track suggest. An exclusives-packed supplemental package helps soften the blow, but not enough for this release to earn the recommendation I wanted to give it. The film? Rent it, watch it, love it. The disc? Diehards won't have any problems adding it to their collection, but casual fans and newcomers should probably wait for its rather lofty pricepoint to fall. It pains me to wave anyone away from such a bold and funny flick -- a classic '90s comedy that was, and remains, ahead of its time -- but the Blu-ray edition's average AV presentation leaves me with little choice.
Chasing Amy: Other Editions
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Chasing Amy Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - November 17th - November 17, 2009
When George Lucas announced that he would be directing three new Star Wars films, fans young and old built a level of anticipation not seen since the original trilogy first graced theater screens - at least until they met Jar Jar. So when Paramount announced ...
• Clerks Blu-ray Gets Detailed - August 24, 2009
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Clerks', which is scheduled to hit store shelves on November 17th, day-and-date with the Blu-ray release of 'Chasing Amy'. Video will ...
• Chasing Amy Blu-ray Detailed - August 22, 2009
We have now the full details for the Blu-ray edition of Kevin Smith's 'Chasing Amy', which will hit store shelves on November 17. The movie will be presented in 1.85:1 1080p, accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. As already reported, the BD will ...
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