I’m something of an oddball among Kevin Smith fans because of my refusal to concede the point that “Chasing Amy” was the best movie he ever made.
Wait. Let me repeat that for dramatic emphasis: “Chasing Amy” was the best movie Kevin Smith ever made. (Had I said that aloud I would have included a long pause in the middle to allow fellow Smith fans to shred me with sarcastic barbs.) Sure, I enjoy his other movies. “Dogma” still strikes me as fairly screwball and revolutionary, and who didn’t find Randal’s 10-second nutshelling of “The Lord of the Rings” movies genius and funny? But “Chasing Amy” … that one holds a special place in my heart, and I think, after 12 years, I finally figured out why:
It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen that deals honestly and pointedly with The One Who Got Away (a.k.a. the one archetype Jung glossed over).
No concept is more bittersweet, more painful, more real and universal than the One Who Got Away. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have that One. The One you hurt badly and couldn’t figure out how to apologize to. The One you loved but were too scared to tell, so you settled for “friends.” The One you loved but were too stupid/immature/inexperienced/self-absorbed/damaged/blind to see it. Everyone has a One. I know I do. And this figure sticks in our subconscious like a splinter. Sometimes it’s calm, sometimes it festers and flares and stings, but it’s always there. We always wonder about it. Until we screw up the courage, we dig out the tweezers and yank. Or until it works itself out on its own.
Kevin Smith gets that, maybe better than any other director I’ve encountered. He knows the weight of chances missed, risks passed up, words stuffed down instead of given voice. What’s more, he knows how to communicate it in two words: “Chasing Amy.” Somehow that’s almost as comforting as it is absurdly perceptive.
Is it possible that I’m overthinking a movie that contains several discussions about whether Archie and Mr. Weatherbee are doing the 44 in the gym showers? Maybe. But I like to think “Chasing Amy” is one of those movies that does a beautiful thing: cuts to the quick of a basic truth of human existence and communicates it in plain language.
Or maybe I’m just getting too damn sentimental in my old age.