Even as a longtime admirer of Kevin Smith, it wasn’t until later in life that it all clicked into place as to why I adored the New Jersey auteur so much. To put it simply, he was a filmmaker whose passion for cinema and filmmaking bled through the screen. From his often-memed tweets and his distinct wardrobe choices to his incredibly self-referential and meta-humor methods of filmmaking, Smith is a filmmaker that, above all else, is earnest. One of the more prominent examples of said earnestness comes in the form of his third film, Chasing Amy. It’s a film with a checkered history, to put it incredibly lightly. Yet, for filmmaker Sav Rodgers, this film is an incredibly important piece of art in his life. That impact, and so much more, is highlighted in the wonderful documentary, Chasing Chasing Amy.
Very quickly, and comedically, Rodgers and all the talking heads that have been assembled do not shy away from the controversies surrounding Smith’s Chasing Amy. It’s a film that has only had a harsher spotlight placed upon it in the 26 years since its release, but these remarks are all juxtaposed with a deeply moving story from Rodgers as to why he developed such an attachment to the film. As we hear from those in the orbit of the film during its creation, as well as the cast and crew of the film itself, the documentary becomes rather telling in what it is setting out to accomplish. Rodgers’ documentary exists far beyond justifying why more people should reexamine Chasing Amy. Instead, as is the case with any great documentary, somewhere along the way it seems to grow into something more grand, unanticipated, and more than anything, profoundly honest.
For better or worse, Chasing Amy is Smith being incredibly candid with his audience. In many conversations within the documentary and throughout discussing his film, Smith has said that Holden (Ben Affleck’s character) is the closest character he has ever written to himself. So yes, Chasing Amy is authentic. In turn, Chasing Chasing Amy is at times devastatingly authentic in how much Rodgers opens himself up to the audience by the simple nature of revealing information about himself in relation to this movie. There’s a conversation between Rodgers and the great Joey Lauren Adams that fundamentally alters how one might view the Smith movie and this documentary after the fact. It’s a frank discussion between the two, and it serves as an essential piece to the entire examination of the film. Nobody should have to deal with a tragic, cruel set of harassment and abuse. Yet the entire documentary frames Chasing Amy as literally saving the life of a person we have come to know and love over the course of 80 minutes. It’s a perspective-shattering conversation that questions the very function of art in the lives of us all.
All in all, Chasing Chasing Amy is many things. It’s a fun homage and conversation-starter surrounding Smith as a whole, as well as the titular film in question. It also serves as a pretty solid examination of the film. One might think going in that having the creators so intrinsically involved in the film would cloud the waters a bit, but I would argue the opposite is true. The ability to witness those in and around the film question the film itself is fascinating, and this type of recontextualizing is not something we often see from the artists themselves. Furthermore, I feel that Rodgers loves Smith’s film so much that he is able to poke holes in its more questionable moments. Viewing it from both an academic manner and as a fan of filmmaking, it’s not only incredibly refreshing, but downright essential. And at the end of the day, Rodgers is simply somebody you will fall in love with over the course of this documentary. By its endearing finale, Chasing Chasing Amy functions as far more than a love letter to the Smith film it’s named after, and it’s all the better for it.
Chasing Chasing Amy celebrated its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. Tickets for screenings and more information on the film can be found right here.