What’s inspiring about Generation X is that they’re trying to make a difference to show previous generations before them that they do amount to something. At least they have a voice, unlike Generation Y (sadly the generation that I’m in), the many of them that wanted to make a difference had shown a darker, more serious, more suggestive, and a more down-to-Earth point of view to the world. The 1990’s was proof of what they were capable of and one of them was Kevin Smith. What I find so inspiring about Kevin Smith’s directing and writing style is that he wanted to make movies that are so down-to-Earth that he was able to reach out to people who felt the same way. So let’s look back to his very first film Clerks. What I find most inspiring about this film is that Smith showed that even despite that a film has a small budget, if you had your heart in it you can make something special! From starting all the way at the bottom at the indie scene in New Jersey to making it in Hollywood in short period of time is truly impressive. Today, we’re looking at Clerks by its own merits and see how did this little movie become the phenomenon that is now remembered.
Clerks is set in a convenience store next to a road way in Leonardo, New Jersey. Our main character, Dante Hicks (played by Brian O’Halloran), works in this store as a clerk and it’s a miserable job for him. Though the premise about the film doesn’t sound interesting when you say it out loud, but Kevin Smith thought of all the possibilities of what can go wrong working as a clerk and this movie is about what can the worst day working in this place be like when you’re at the lowest point of your life. As we watch this film, we get to see what Dante’s life is like by how opens the stores (getting everything prepared) and tries his best to keep everything under control because where he’s at right now, this is the highest point of his life (in terms of social class). Since Dante is the straight man of this comedy, that means he’s surrounded by characters who make the comedy that gives him a hard time. Our second main character Randal Graves (played by Jeff Anderson) who works in the video rental store right next to the convenience store where Dante works. So very often Randal locks up the place and goes to next store to visit Dante and start some of the most interesting conversations that young men often talk about like sex, nerdy Star Wars topics, pornography, and how much Dante hates his life. The friendship between Dante and Randal is an interesting one because they can’t live with each other and can’t live out them because Randal is always cautious, responsible, defensive, and worries about making everything right so that he might catch a break after feeling like the world is crushing him out of sheer malice. Even if customers treat Dante like dirt, he keeps his cool in order to keep his job. Randal on the other hand is the opposite where so very often Randal causes the most problems around their work places (like treating customers like crap), doesn’t care one bit on how badly it really was, and Dante get the blame for it with hardly any consequences put upon Randal himself. No matter how bad every situation they’ve been together (that could reck real-life friendships) they can’t hate each other because they actually enjoy each other’s company and they care for each other.
But they are also given more of a hard time with the troublesome drug dealers, Jay and Silent Bob (played by Jason Mues and Kevin Smith). This duo have been appearing together as characters who has been in Kevin Smith’s movies which is now a series called View Askewniverse. To me, Jay and Silent Bob are some of the best duos ever where Jay foul-mouths every sentence thinking about money, drugs, and sex while Silent Bob only offers physical comedy with very little to say which makes him stick out as more of a character than the loudest comedian. These guys embodies 90’s comedy and whenever we see these two in any film, it gets so hilarious and outrageous. They had the stereotype of a 90’s kid and just rolls with the stupid stuff they’ve done that we find most amusing, if not the funniest thing ever.
Speaking of which, what makes the movie stick out as a totally different comedy is it doesn’t focus on physical humor, gross out comedy, or even reliant on giving out a punchline for the whole theater to laugh. Instead, Clerks focus on the dialog in which it almost feels like it’s inspired by comic strips. This is comedy like we’ve never seen before where the conversations themselves are so realistic and humorous; they argue, they complain, they joke, and both agree that their jobs sucks. I love seeing how they would pick up surprising conversations with each other, customers, and girls that Dante’s is in a relationship with the stands out as being very mature and it builds up to something that leads to a good or bad situation. There particular situations where an anti-smoking customer starts a riot against Dante’s store for selling cigarettes, playing hockey on the store’s rooftops, and so much more that needs to be seen to be believed. The dialog is so brillaintly written that it feels improvised half the time and even make Quentin Tarantino a run for his money as a screenwriter.
To be quite honest, Clerks has less of the plot and more of a conscious feel to it. Like I said earlier, this film is set in one day where Dante had to go to work on his day off ruining everything that he has planned like having lunch with his girl Veronica and going out to play in a big hockey game with all of his friends. Annoying customers come and goes, problems build up ending in a strange yet funny conclusion, Dante goes through them as a Kevin Smith’s catharsis. Throughout this film, it’s shot entirely in black and white which really sticks out as great film to look at. Just watching the cinematography just sticks out as being from that era upon its release because it’s almost like looking at the photographs of the Grunge era in Seattle, Washington. Since this was Kevin Smith’s first movie, many of the shots just focuses on one still image on to the the characters as they say their lines to make a scene and doesn’t cut as much (in terms of editing) as films do to day. It really feels like you’re there and it’s a shame that Kevin Smith doesn’t do this classic movie making style anymore. Plus backed up by some of the most “grungiest” of Grunge music, you got yourself the most “90’s-ist” movie ever since “Slacker”!
Towards the end of the movie, after all the crazy shit that Randal and Dante been through, it concluded with probably the best climatic conversation I’ve ever seen in any media period! After you see them ending that last conversation, it makes you wonder about where you’re at in life and how can you improve upon the social class. Clerks is so well written that I got it memorized like a preacher and the bible. You have to remember that when this film was released, this was the return of independent film-making with other indie films such as Quintin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” Richard Lanklater’s “Slacker,” Robert Rodriguez “El Meriachi,” Edward Burn’s “The Brothers McMullen” that all became huge success and got Hollywood’s attention in bringing them to their industry and look at them now; they’re some the biggest names in Hollywood! But Clerks isn’t just a film aimed towards to Generation X, but instead all generations of people who are bored with their lives and hopes that they can make a difference. The reason why Clerks is so special to me is that it is the most relatable movie I’ve ever seen and it got me watching it again and again. I basically got every scene memorized and still can’t get enough out of it. This was the first film of the View Askewniverse series, still throwing in Jay and Silent Bob for good comedic relief, but because Kevin Smith was so desperate for success that he made a film that’s his catharsis I can easily say that this is his best movie. Even despite the large amount of adult content by the end of the film it has a lot of heart!
Things that I like
- Kevin Smith’s screenwriting and dialog
- Feeling like a 1990’s film
- Crazy Situations that our characters faces
- Has a lot of heart despite its adult content
- Awesome soundtrack
- Jay and Silent Bob
Things that I dislike
- Pretty slow pacing of a film
- The deleted scenes are lost
The Top Lister’s movie score – 6 out of 5