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‘Chasing Chasing Amy’ (review)

For a good long while, I wasn’t sure where Chasing Chasing Amy was going. However, as the film progresses, director Sav Rodgers unspools a making-of documentary that’s also a coming-out story that then becomes a growing-up story.

And in doing so, Chasing Chasing Amy ultimately speaks volumes about the nature of fandom itself while also telling Rodgers’ story of queerness and the power of representation. Chasing Chasing Amy as a documentary revisiting the making and influence of Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith’s third feature film from 1997.

Director Sav Rodgers springboards the documentary from his own viral TED Talk about how the film was a lifeline while growing up queer and bullied in Kansas, and then tries to dig into how and why the film still has something to say.

That side of the documentary comes off fine enough, with rehash of the history around the film, and talking heads discussing the film’s strengths and weaknesses as perceived now.

Because, if you didn’t know, Chasing Amy is often described with that 21st-century word “problematic.”

Chasing Amy is a big indie film with an interesting, intelligent, sexy and strongly realized queer woman character, and it features actual conversations about queerness – in 1997, no less. Yet it is a film in which a straight man falls for a gay woman who eventually falls for him.

1997 surely had little to no room for fluid sexuality – bisexual women were duplicitous villains such as Sharon Stone’s character in Basic Instinct (1992) and Gina Gershon’s in Showgirls (1995). That story also fed easily into the homophobic, misogynistic premise that a lesbian can be “turned” by meeting the right man, while also approaching LGBTQ+ people solely from the straight male protagonist’s point of view.

Rodgers digs into those criticisms by letting various dissenting voices speak for themselves. Some of those same voices also illuminate what the film interprets correctly, such as biphobia within queer spaces.

Those portions earlier in the documentary are helpful, because we’re also getting a lot of behind-the-scenes material showcasing hero worship and geeky fandom on Rodgers’ part for Kevin Smith. Rodgers, an aspiring filmmaker, is overjoyed by Kevin Smith’s embrace and participation in the documentary. He films himself freaking out while entering Smith’s house, texting Smith from a Chasing Amy location while on a date with his girlfriend, and other scenes.

These parts of the film held little appeal for me, yet in totality they were necessary. Rodgers unspools a making-of documentary that’s also a coming-out story that then becomes a growing-up story.

Rodgers’ adorkable online friendship with a girl from Mexico City turns into a serious romance and engagement. His hero worship of Kevin Smith and his film is colored in with fuller accounts of those heady times that weren’t so good for the women involved. Miramax Films distributed Chasing Amy, which means Harvey Weinstein runs deep in the film’s history.

A heartbreaking interview with Joey Lauren Adams serves as a pivot for the documentary. Adams’ ride through 1990s Hollywood as a sex object happened alongside a difficult relationship with Smith. Rodgers’ reckoning with these facts creates a powerful window into how a fan can let their fandom mature as they do. Furthermore, his own maturation in his Chasing Amy fandom happens alongside coming out as transgender, undergoing medical transition, getting on his way to starting a film career, moving out of his mother’s house.

Even if the issues surrounding Chasing Amy remain far from settled, it’s good to see Rodgers find some peace.

I left Chasing Chasing Amy feeling glad that Rodgers the bullied teen lived long enough to grow into Rodgers now. And glad that there are more projects for queer representation and queer voices made by queer artists.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Sav Rodgers, Carrie Radigan,
Lela Meadow-Conner, Matthew C. Mills.Rodgers
Directed by Sav Rodgers
Featuring Joey Lauren Adams, Andrew Ahn, Trish Bendix,
Ryan James, Scott Mosier, Sav Rodgers, Kevin Smith,
Guinevere Turner, Princess Weekes, Kevin Willmott

 

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