Monday, May 7, 2012

#630. Clerks (1994)

Directed By: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti

Tag line: "Just Because They Serve You... Doesn't Mean They Like You"

Trivia: Kevin Smith financed this movie by maxing out credit cards, selling a majority of his comic book collection and borrowing money from family and friends

As the story goes, writer/director Kevin Smith financed his first film, Clerks, by maxing out credit cards, borrowing from family and friends, and selling off his beloved comic book collection. The main setting, a convenience store, was where Smith himself was working at the time, and he was only permitted to shoot the interior scenes after the place had closed. Yet, despite such rugged conditions (or perhaps because of them), Clerks has become a prime example of independent film making done to perfection, a movie with genuinely interesting characters who find themselves mired in one hilarious situation after another.

Convenience store employee Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) is suckered into working on his day off, and though he tries to make the best of it, things aren’t destined to go his way. Aside from the customers giving him a hard time, Dante’s also arguing with his current girlfriend, Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), and failing in his attempts to win back former love, Caitlyn (Lisa Spooonhauer). His buddy, Randal (Jeff Anderson), the callous clerk of the video rental shop across the street, wants to brighten his pal’s outlook, but each time Randal tries to improve things, he only makes Dante's day worse.

The film’s two lead characters, Dante and Randal, are the best of friends. They are also complete opposites. Dante is a dedicated, yet ultimately naive employee who agrees to open the store and remain behind the counter 'til the boss arrives at noon to relieve him. It isn’t until 1:30 in the afternoon that he learns the boss is actually vacationing in Vermont, meaning Dante's stuck there. Randal, on the other hand, is an impertinent worker who only shows up in the first place because he enjoys talking to Dante (my favorite exchange involves independent contractors and the ending of Return of the Jedi) and insulting the customers, whom he argues with constantly, often not even bothering to look up from his newspaper as he does so. Randal even shows an incredible lack of ethics by selling a pack of cigarettes to a four-year-old girl!

And then there’s Jay and Silent Bob (played by Jason Mewes and director Kevin Smith), the street side drug dealers who spend their days...well, standing on the side of the street! From this prime piece of real estate, Jay can mouth off at everyone passing by as Silent Bob quietly looks on. Having appeared in Smith’s first five films (aside from Clerks, the two also had bit parts in Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma before finally scoring a movie of their own, 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), they are a comedy duo for the ages. Jay is loud, sexist, and extremely crude; a punk who never tires of being crass, whereas Silent Bob remains stoic at all times, observant even, as if judging his partner in crime every step of the way. They are to the slacker generation what Cheech and Chong were to the drug culture; you don’t admire them, nor do you necessarily want to be like them, but damned if you they don’t bring a smile to your face.

Their big-screen debut is simple enough: Jay and Silent Bob enter from the right, place a boom-box on the sidewalk, and stand there…and stand there…and stand there...

And thus, cinematic history is made!


misha_oz said...

Long time reader... first time comment...:) One of the best Kevin Smith films ever, followed up by the poor Clerks 2, whose only saving grace was the dance sequence :) My friends and I were working in a Video store at the time of.this release, and it became our favorite very quickly. While we smiled at the inane customers we could only dream of saying what we felt like these two :)

DVD Infatuation said...

Misha: Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting!

I think I liked CLERKS 2 a little more than you did, but will agree it pales in comparison to the 1st film. I can only imagine how gratifying it was for you and your friends to hear Randal insult his "customers". I'm guessing you got your share of stupid questions as well!

Anonymous said...

A movie that never gets old even though Smith keeps on trying his hardest to bring back the flavor he once had again. Although, this isn't my favorite Smith flick. That honor would have to go right to Chasing Amy. Good stuff Dave.

DVD Infatuation said...

@dtmmr: Thanks for the comment! And I agree: CLERKS appeal seems to be timeless.

As for CHASING AMY, I'm a fan of that one as well (and hold a special place in my heart for both DOGMA and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK as well).

Thanks again!

Anthony Lee Collins said...

Clerks and Dogma are my favorite Smith films, though I do like J&SBSB and Clerks II as well. Chasing Amy I enjoy, but I thought Affleck was a weak link between the other two leads (both of whom were amazing). His strength as an actor is playing heels, not romantic heroes, and his strengths overall are writing and directing (IMHO).

DVD Infatuation said...

Anthony: Smith had a run of impressive films at the beginning of his career (I even kinda liked MALLRATS, though admit it's inferior to the others), and CLERKS was a great way to introduce his particular "world" to audiences.

I don't remember having a problem with Affleck in CHASING AMY, but admittedly, it's been a few years since I've seen it (though I will agree, after GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN, that he is showing great promise as a writer/director)

Anthony Lee Collins said...

Oh, I enjoy Mallrats, too, but I mostly like it because I've seen the other films and I get what he was trying to do.

Gone Baby Gone, though, was great by any standards. (I liked The Town, too, but maybe a notch below.)

DVD Infatuation said...

Anthony: Yeah, MALLRATS was enjoyable b/c it's a continuation of Smith's "Universe". Again, not his best, but not nearly the disaster many claim it to be.

And yes, THE TOWN was a very good film, but GONE BABY GONE was a great one!

Again, thanks for stopping by!