It can be easy for a documentarian to place themselves in a story. Time and time again, documentarians become too focused on framing their thoughts on a topic rather than letting the information flow to the audience. For a documentary, objectivity matters more than most genres. Yet, in some cases, the personal connection becomes so overwhelming, it’s impossible to tell it’s sorry without it. Chasing Chasing Amy follows documentarian Sav Rodgers. Rodgers explores his obsession with the Kevin Smith indie classic, examining its impact on his life and culture.
Back in 1997, Chasing Amy became a breakout hit. While Smith had been tossed aside after Mallrats, he got back into Hollywood’s good graces with its success. However, Chasing Amy has seen renewed adoration and criticism in part over the years. It came from Miramax, where Harvey Weinstein reigned. Joey Lauren Adams struggled with her ex-boyfriend (Smith) bringing up her skeletons. It helped launch Ben Affleck to stardom and earned Adams a Golden Globe nomination. Chasing Amy accidentally acknowledged bisexuality. Yet it also seemed to imply finding the right man would turn any lesbian straight. This discussion has become all-encompassing.
Chasing Chasing Amy stands out from similar documentaries in several ways. First, it does not needlessly praise Chasing Amy at its center. It knows about the critical responses and chooses to loop them into the tale. Even more importantly, it never tells you how to feel. It both acknowledges and rebuts while providing mountains of support to each point.
As Chasing Chasing Amy evolves, it’s clear that Rodgers is the real story. First, Rodgers comes out to their family as a lesbian. Later he transitions. Rodgers’ anxiety and changing life come through the screen. He puts many of the rawest moments of his life out in the open. The mere act of showcasing this vulnerability reveals his changing view of the world. As the documentary evolves, so too does Sav. As he takes a step back from his personal love for Chasing Amy, he makes it clear that he’s willing to acknowledge any flaws. While the feature might be slightly shaggy at 95 minutes (85 would have been perfect), it never feels directionless.
Smith’s involvement in helping Sav connect with those who helped him on Chasing Amy speaks to his own reckoning. He openly acknowledges the issues that his film showcases. In fact, he embraces them because he knows that he cannot speak about the experience authentically. While he appreciates any small credits he does receive, Smith knows that his personal experience does not speak for anyone beyond himself.
Rodgers gets the best footage from the women involved in the documentary. An interview with Joey Lauren Adams informs the audience about the harsh treatment she received from Harvey Weinstein. It also forced her to reckon with her relationship with Smith and the difficulty the film created for them.
Just as essential is the perspective from Guinevere Turner, the writer of Go Fish, which premiered in competition at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival alongside Clerks. Her friendship with Scott Mosier helped inspire Chasing Amy (she even appears in it). Yet decades later, Turner never received a career with nearly as much glamour as Smith and Mosier.
For Rodgers, Chasing Chasing Amy serves as a brilliant and complex love letter to a film of his youth. There’s something special about finding a movie that speaks to you in a way no other movie can. No matter what happens, we all have one movie we will love forever. Rodgers’ ability to showcase that passion and deconstruct his favorite film’s true legacy makes it a wonderful experience. His feature becomes a must-watch for any fans of Smith or LGBTQ+ cinema.