Rated R-heavy use of obscene language.
Two 20-something alternative comic book artists in suburban central New Jersey, friends-for-life and former parochial schoolmates Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) have lives anyone in their generation could envy. Pursued for autographs at comix and sci-fi "cons" (conventions), they're successful, good looking, independent, and cool. But when Holden meets Alyssa Jones, who also has her own alternative comic line, at a con and there seems to be some chemistry between them, their secure little niche becomes threatened.
Alyssa has a go-between, flamboyant gay colleague Hooper (Dwight Ewell), set up a date in a New York nightclub with Holden, and he's nearly ecstatic that this relationship seems to be rushing into more than just chemistry. Though Holden cautions against it, Banky tags along, and he starts grinning when the two men see Alyssa kissing a long-lost girlfriend at the club in what's obviously more than a friendly hello. Alyssa explains that she is a lesbian, but she hopes that she and Holden can be friends anyway. Briefly repulsed but fascinated by this unknown, Holden sticks around and, when Alyssa later tells him he's the first man she has even liked in some years and says she has never been with a man, his curiosity is strong enough to lead him to commit to the offered friendship.
As the relationship turns from friendship to love and sleeping together, Banky gets increasingly upset. He reports to Holden that word is around that Alyssa is not a only not a virgin where men are concerned, but in high school was promiscuous, at which point Holden warns Banky that such disrespect for the woman he's in love with is likely to ruin their friendship, not to mention their business relationship. Holden talks to his gay friend Hooper, who suggests that Banky's obvious jealousy over Alyssa is based on secret yearnings Banky "no doubt" has for Holden, and tries to downplay Holden's fears that Alyssa has been with many other men. But once the seeds of doubt have been planted, Holden has to get to the bottom of it. When it turns out Banky's report is true, after much "soul-searching," Holden comes up with what he thinks is the perfect solution. He and Alyssa and Banky should all have sex together.
Some will think I've told too much already; this was certainly the shocking climax of the film. But the ending, about which I'll say no more, is also a surprise.
This is another of those small-budget ($250,000) movies that are worth far more than most of their box-office competitors that cost as much as 100 times more to make. The script and direction by Kevin Smith are excellent; the dialog is taut and often piercing. The cultural sensibility is biting. The dialog is coarse and the discussions often embarrassing to overhear, but probably not off the mark for the characters it represents. This certainly isn't for everyone; it's message is ultimately humanistic-romantic despite the toughness of its veneer. But there is also a strong moral point and a lot of food for thought here.
Meanwhile, Smith announces that his next movie is going to be Dogma, "about the church and organized religion." That, I just can't wait to see.
Photo © by the film's distributor
© 1997, Jon Kennedy-