This Chasing Chasing Amy review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors who are currently on strike, movies like Chasing Amy would not be possible, and Autostraddle is grateful for the artists who do this work.
Outfest is taking place in Los Angeles between July 13 and Jul 23. Sa’iyda Shabazz and Drew Gregory has been bringing you all kinds of reviews. If you’re interested in attending, virtually or in person, check out Outfest’s full schedule.
When I saw that the documentary Chasing Chasing Amy was going to be the closing night film at Outfest, I knew that I had to cover it. The original was a movie that stayed with me, not because it was profound, but because I saw it at a time when I needed to see it. I saw Chasing Amy for the first time when I was in my early twenties, back when Netflix was still primarily a DVD delivery service.
At that time I was in what I like to call my “aggressively heterosexual phase.wp_postsI was dating a guy and had buried my queerness so far inside I often forgot it was there. Despite that, I connected and understood the character Alyssa. Her relationship with Holden made sense to me in a way that it didn’t make sense to others. When I saw Chasing Amy, I had no idea what the discourse was around it, that wasn’t something I’d learn until years later.
Still, I’d never heard anyone talk about it with reverence before, and I wanted to know what about Chasing Amy compelled Sav Rodgers to make a whole documentary about it. It’s hard to love something that a lot of your peers consider to be problematic. But Chasing Amy quite literally saved Rodgers’ life when he was a tween and trying to figure out his queerness. And how did a tween in the aughts find a movie that came out in 1997? A Ben Affleck movie marathon, and that was on the list. Shortly after that first viewing, the movie became Sav’s lifeline. And that love is where the idea for the documentary came from.
After a TED Talk Sav gave on his love for Chasing Amy went viral, his life changed in a major way. “Everybody was so kind about the TED talk,wp_postshe told me during a Zoom interview. “I mean, there were the occasional bouts of like, homophobia from random Twitter users, the occasional person accusing me of enabling biphobia by liking Chasing Amy, but that was very few and far between.”
Kevin Smith, the film’s writer and director, got a hold of the TED Talk and made himself available to Rodgers. Talk about a freaking dream come true.
“We had a phone call for 20 minutes where he was so kind to tell me that he loved the TED Talk and that he was so excited to participate. He was already talking about ideas for things we could shoot. And I was like, all right, this feels good.”
Kevin Smith plays a huge part in the film, which makes sense given that his work is the thing being examined in the documentary. But at the same time, he didn’t have to be that available to Rodgers and the crew. Rodgers admitted that Smith’s involvement in Chasing Chasing Amy gave the film a “credibilitywp_poststhat made it easier to move the process forward.
Several other key players in the Chasing Amy story play a big role as talking heads in Chasing Chasing Amy including lesbian film icon Guinevere Turner and the star of Chasing Amy, Joey Lauren Adams. Both women were hugely influential to the core of the story — Turner inspired a lot of the lesbian elements of the storyline because of her friendship with Smith, and Adams inspired a lot of the character of Alyssa due to her relationship with Smith at the time of the writing and filming of Chasing Amy. Their inclusion in the film gives a more nuanced context to everything Smith says about how he made the movie.
I for one, had no idea how much of a role Guinevere Turner played behind the scenes. Without her, the lesbian elements of the film would have fallen flat because they would have come from Smith’s perspective alone. But he really valued their friendship, and made sure to include her and her experiences in the film to give it a sense of reality.
Throughout the film, we get a view into Rodgers’ personal life, mainly through his relationship with his girlfriend turned wife Riley, and his gender transition.
“Initially I did not want to be in it whatsoever,wp_postshe confessed. It was definitely surprising to hear this since his personal story is so intertwined with his love for Chasing Amy. “I don’t really relish that kind of attention. I don’t really love being vulnerable in that way.”
Had it not been for the people he was working with, we would have gotten a lot less of Sav during the film. “People had said this from the jump, when I initially resisted being in it, when I still wanted to make a straightforward documentary about the intersection of the LGBTQ community and Chasing Amy, they were like, ‘hey, your story is the reason we’re here,’wp_postsRodgers explained.
Honestly, working on my own documentary, I get where he’s coming from. It’s hard to put yourself out there, especially when you’re talking about something that means a lot to you. People can be really harsh when it comes to “problematic” pop culture, and if you say you had a positive experience with something, they make assumptions about you. But the only reason Chasing Chasing Amy works as a documentary is because Sav Rodgers chose to make himself a part of the film. No one would have been interested in a documentary examining the community’s relationship with a movie that came out 25 years ago. We needed to see how Rodgers related to the film, but also how the current season of his life changes what the film means to him.
The most heartwarming moments in the film happen when we get to see Sav and Riley together. He takes her with him to New Jersey, and they go on a little Chasing Amy tour. It’s really sweet to see them sitting in the same diner featured in the movie. Riley and Sav are really cute together, and the scenes with them just living their lives together ground the film.
He also interviews Riley on camera as a part of the film, and I really enjoyed learning about their partnership through these interviews. Rodgers opens up to Riley in ways he won’t open up to the camera — you can see the sense of comfort he has with her that only comes across when you’re talking to your person. While I was watching the film, I was so curious about what she was thinking.
“She’s just cool, she’s always down for whatever the adventure is,wp_postsRodgers told me. “I probably over-explained. ‘Hey, this is vulnerable. You’re going to be a participant in this movie.’ But she just took it all in stride, you know? She was like, okay, what do you need me to do? We’re gonna get filmed with a camera? She’s just the coolest person on earth.wp_postsHe then revealed that she didn’t see the film until it was finished, which is truly a testament to how much she trusts him.
While the relationship between Sav and Riley provides the emotional core of the film, there is one moment that provides emotional conflict, and it’s not a moment the viewer is ever going to expect.
Rodgers got to interview Kevin Smith alone, but he also got to do a joint interview with Smith and Joey Lauren Adams. Smith and Adams are jovial during the interview, but there is a something bubbling just under the surface during their interaction. It makes sense, even though the film was 25 years ago, there is always going to be some tension, especially as Smith explains the ways he worked through their relationship issues during the film and their breakup in detail.
The next day, Adams sits down with Rodgers for her solo interview. She is kind and in good spirits, but something switches when she sits down in front of the camera. Adams asks Rodgers to ask her something she hasn’t been asked about making Chasing Amy before. And it’s not so much of a question as a challenge, a dare even. Whatever jovial nature that existed before she sat down in front of the camera disappears — she’s more guarded, a little hardened just because she knows what’s coming. After 25 years of being asked the same questions, she has a story she needs to tell.
“That moment with Joey is, it’s an incredible amount of honesty,wp_postsRodgers said. “For her to trust me and the filmmaking team with her perspective and her story, it’s something that we take really seriously. It’s not lost on me the weight of that responsibility, and it’s certainly not how I thought the interview was going to go. But I think when somebody tells you their truth and trusts you with it, you have an obligation to honor it, or at least do your best to honor it.”
Adams’ reveal that everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows is not only a gut punch for the viewers, it was clearly a shock for Rodgers too, and I was so glad in that moment that he was a part of the film for us to see his reaction. That’s the moment the whole documentary changes, and also his relationship with this movie that changed his life. After his interview with Adams, he went back home to Kansas to do some serious soul searching before finishing the documentary.
“I am deeply appreciative of that moment because it was a challenge to rise to the occasion,wp_postshe shared. “[Adams was asking] can you handle the truth, you don’t know that you’re asking of me. And I’m grateful to have received it in full the way that we did.”
That interview was a moment that will stay with you forever, and I’m so glad Rodgers was able to capture it all on film.