Clerks – A Retrospective Review

 

Something http://www.novastreamovie.com/, a site I write for, like to do is have theme months. For ‘March memories’ I decided to write about my most favouriteist film, Clerks.

For most aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers, one film stands as a turning point. One film that makes them say ‘yes, I want to do that.’ For me, that film is Clerks.

A portly, bearded geek in his early twenties by the name of Kevin Smith, inspired by Richard Linklater’s film Slacker and his love of pop culture, decided to write and direct his own film. He sold his beloved comic book collection, used money from an insurance settlement and maxed out several credit cards to finance the film, and films in the convenience store he worked at. Smith took Clerks to Sundance, where it won an award and was picked up by indie film giants Miramax. Clerks made over US$3 million at the box office and kick-started the career Kevin Smith. Clerks was a labour of love, made by an average young man with the help of his friends, that became a hit – it’s the independent filmmaker’s dream.

Clerks follows Dante (Brian O’Halloran), a 22 year old employee of the Quick Stop convenience store, who is asked to work on his day off. Problems keep on piling up for Dante: He’s pelted with cigarettes thanks to an unscrupulous gum salesman, he’s on bad terms with his girlfriend after an argument about her sexual history, and the ex-girlfriend he’s been in contact with has gotten engaged without telling him. His filthy-minded friend Randal (Jeff Anderson), who barely works at the video store next door, provides further frustration for Dante.

Dante’s day becomes more chaotic by the hour as he and Randal take to the roof for a (very short) game of hockey and go to a wake, only to be chased out when they knock the casket over. To make things more complicated, Dante’s ex-girlfriend arrives at the Quick Stop to announce she is breaking off her engagement and wants to rekindle the pair’s romance. The climax of Clerks is excellent, combining rising tensions with a shocking surprise.

The characters and dialogue really make Clerks shine. Dante represents the many, many men and women in their early twenties who don’t know what to do with their life, while Randal provides a perfect foil the all-too-serious Dante as he disregards, disrespects and even spits on customers throughout Clerks. The pair really click as they discuss the trivial, and often crude, matters in life, such as the contractors aboard the second Death Star and the wage of the cleaners at peep shows.

This is not to mention Kevin Smith’s most enduring and popular characters – the cartoonish drug-dealing duo Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith). The pair’s scenes act as vignettes depicting the day in a life of a pair of young lowlifes loitering outside the Quick Stop. These scenes act as a contrast between the unambitious slackers loving life on the outside of the store and the unhappy Dante working inside of it.

Clerks is a film for anyone who has worked in a dead-end service job or struggled to make sense of life in the post high school world, or both. It is not a perfect film – the camera rarely moves and the acting is not exactly Oscar-worthy – but it relays the feelings of a generation of people, something that few films can do.

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