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Now and Then – Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Chasing Amy


          Now: Zack and Miri
           Make a Porno
              Then: Chasing Amy (1997)
          Coming Soon
              It’s Not Who You Love …
          It’s How

Ever since his incendiary debut Clerks lobbed f-bombs and vulgar comedy at unsuspecting audiences while still communicating the feelings of the characters swearing and screwing, writer-director Kevin Smith has mixed blunt talk with feelings left unspoken. His new movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, is the story of two lifelong friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) whose decision to make — and star — in an adult movie puts their relationship in a whole new light; his 1997 film, Chasing Amy , looks at a friendship between indie comic book creators Holden and Alyssa (Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams) that turns to love — despite the fact that she’s a lesbian. Which tale of complicated lust, love and laughter is the better movie?

Premise and Plot

Harvey Weinstein reportedly agreed to back Zack and Miri the moment he heard the title, while Chasing Amy‘s storyline can be easily boiled down to “boy meets girl, but. …” Zack and Miri doesn’t quite bait its hook as well as Chasing Amy does, though — Zack and Miri fall for each other, but that romance isn’t as well-supported, or well-written, as the relationship between Holden and Alyssa. The cautious, confused lovers in Chasing Amy also have to contend with Holden’s jealous best friend who lashes out when Holden pursues the seemingly unattainable Alyssa. He just gives them more to struggle against, and gives us more to root for.

Sex and Love

Zack and Miri isn’t just about the mechanics of sex; Zack himself knows that, and says so in the movie’s most sincere moment, confessing his feelings to Miri: “We tried to f–k, and we wound up making love.” In Chasing Amy, concerns — or, rather, obsessions — about sex are what drive Holden and Alyssa apart. Which final moment works better? It all depends on how you feel about happy endings…

A Sense of Accomplishment

Both movies are about creativity; in Zack and Miri, the group shoots after-hours in Zack’s place of employment (which is also how Smith made Clerks) leads to a new sense of accomplishment. One character points out, ” … plain old people like us could do something special.” In Chasing Amy, Holden’s breakup — and stupidity — allows him to channel his pain into art and create his most personal comic yet. Contrast that with the finished product of Zack and Miri’s —  it’s hard to believe their amateur efforts will become a success. Holden’s work and talent are established throughout the story, so his achievement feels more plausible.

The Verdict

Zack and Miri is a comedy — a broad and bare-bones one — with an emphasis on sexy slapstick over dialogue. Chasing Amy is funny, but it’s also sincere — and the scenes between Affleck and Adams have a real charge of chemistry to them. Zack and Miri Make a Porno has the blunt power of Chasing Amy‘s crude-but-true moments, but it doesn’t have Chasing Amy‘s heart. When all’s said and done, Zack and Miri Make a Porno feels like Smith’s chasing himself, and, unfortunately, falling behind.

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