A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO FELL IN LOVE with "Clerks," Kevin Smith's funky convenience-store comedy, were worried, after the dismal "Mallrats," that New Jersey's scruffiest independent filmmaker was a one-hit wonder. You can now banish the thought. With Chasing Amy, Smith more than redeems himself: he grows up. He hasn't lost his raunchy bad-boy humor, and he's back to working on a shoestring. But instead of cool twenty-something irony, Smith startles us with raw emotional honesty.
"Chasing Amy" looks plain, but it takes some big risks. For starters, it's about a straight white dude--comic-book artist Holden (Ben Affleck)-who falls in love with a lesbian comic-book artist named Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). Holden's best friend and partner Banky (Jason Lee) is at first concerned, then jealous and horrified when the bright, wild, sexy Alyssa reciprocates. (Undoubtedly some gay women will be appalled, too.)
But "Chasing Amy" is no paean to heterosexuality. Ultimately this funny, surprisingly moving love story is a devastating critique of the hetero male ego, a victim of arrested development. Holden, so cool about Alyssa's flings with women, goes haywire when he's confronted with her promiscuous heterosexual past. Adams will tear your heart out as she fights to bring Holden back to his senses. Who would have expected that Smith could write a female part with such passion and insight? But whether discussing comics, cunnilingus or their deepest feelings, all of Smith's vibrant characters seduce us with their blunt and heartfelt eloquence.