Review – Clerks (1994)
Before i write a single word, i have a confession to make. Until watching Clerks just a few hours ago, i had never seen a Kevin Smith movie. Surely not that big a deal ???. But you should hear the disbelief in certain peoples voices, every time i state, that my life, of nearly 60 years, has been completely devoid of Kevin Smiths movies. A couple of friends at work have been watching his films for years, and they take every opportunity to tell me how brilliant they are. As much as i’ve always liked what i’ve heard about them, i’ve always kind of put off taking a look for myself. I thought it was high time i changed all that, and find out first hand, what i’ve been missing out on, and i’m so pleased i did.
The story is quite easy to sum up, as basically there isn’t one, nothing happens. It’s just a “regular” day in the lives of a tiny handful of people, working, in and around, a Quick Stop convenience store. The fun starts immediately, as Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is asked to replace a sick colleague. It’s a typical day, with Dante constantly stating “You know what the worst part is, i’m not even supposed to BE here today”. He’s faced with a succession of increasingly weird customers, including a guy who badgers people who come in for cigarettes. He does this by pulling a diseased lung out of his bag, and dropping it on the counter in front of them, before launching into a lecture, on the dangers of smoking. We also have a very strange man trying to find the perfect box of eggs, i’ll leave you to find out for yourself how he does this. Dante’s day isn’t made any easier by his girlfriend, who calls in on her way to work. They end up in an argument, over the amount of people they’ve each had sex with, and after much screaming and shouting, they fall out. Throw in a rooftop hockey game, the disruption of a funeral, by accidentally tipping over the coffin during the wake, and you have the recipe for a brilliantly funny movie.
In amongst all this, we have Randall (Jeff Anderson) who works in the video store next door, who’s constantly dropping by to break up the boredom of his day. There are so many laugh out loud moments in this film, too many to talk about here, but i have to mention the cat, which i understand is called “Annoying Customer”, taking a crap in the litter box on the counter, right in front of an old guy, who’s waiting to pay for something. Had me in tears.
This is also the movie that unleashed Jay and Silent Bob on the world. Two brilliant comic creations played by Jason Mewes’ and Kevin Smith himself. These two would become a mainstay in Smiths movies, which collectively became known as the Askewniverse. If anyone knows what the Askewniverse is, please feel free to enlighten me in the comments below.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is the backstory. Kevin Smith apparently sold most of his comic book collection, and also maxed out all his credit cards, to finance the film. Shot on a ridiculously low budget of 28k, using mostly friends and relatives as the cast and crew, “Clerks” is such a great film because it doesn’t try to be more than it is. You get the sense that this movie was made in black and white, not to be arty or pretentious, but simply because it takes a monochrome look, at the monotonous lives these people are leading. The movie became a huge hit at Sundance, and is now considered to be one of the finest independent movies of all time.
The script is so damn good, and this is where Kevin Smith’s real talent lies, writing funny, witty dialogue, and it’s this, that carries this film. From Star Wars debates, “Did the destruction of the second Death Star in Return Of The Jedi cost innocent contractors their lives?” and “Would a Stormtrooper even know how to install a toilet?”, to perfectly serious debates about sex….”Thirty Seven???”. Smith uses his characters, to reference his favorite movies, including the previously mentioned Star Wars, as well as Jaws, “Salso Shark”, and Indiana Jones, not to mention some incredibly explicit discussions about certain “off limits” sexual practices. Some incredibly outrageous stuff is talked about here, which definetely earns the movie it’s “R” rating.
This is the ultimate movie for anyone, who ever felt as if they were going nowhere, and achieving nothing. Simply put, Clerks is a day in the life of an ordinary guy, working behind the counter of a convenience store, no more, no less. But it’s absolutely brilliant.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do it, and fast. Clerks fully deserves its cult status. It has priceless dialogue, wisecracking characters and tons of swearing. What more could you ask for? Can’t wait to catch Clerks 2, and also looking forward to discovering the rest of Kevin Smiths back catalogue, including his live shows, and his tv series Comic Book Men, set in his own comic book store. If Clerks is anything to go by, i’m definetely in for a real treat….