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

Writer/director Kevin Smith financed his first film Clerks by maxing out his credit cards, borrowing from family and friends, and even selling off his beloved comic book collection. The main setting, a convenience store, was where Smith himself worked at the time, and he was only permitted to shoot the interior after the place had closed. 

Yet despite it being such an ordeal (or perhaps because of it), Clerks is today considered a prime example of independent film making done to perfection, a black and white comedy with genuinely interesting characters 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 is also arguing with his current girlfriend, Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), and failing in his attempt to win back former love Caitlyn (Lisa Spoonauer). 

His buddy Randal (Jeff Anderson), who works at the video store across the street, tries to brighten his pal’s outlook. Unfortunately, whenever Randal gets involved, Dante's day actually gets worse!

The lead characters, Dante and Randal, played to perfection by O'Halloran and Anderson, are the best of friends. They are also total opposites. Dante is a dedicated yet ultimately naïve employee who agrees to open the store and work behind the counter until the boss arrives at noon. It isn’t until 1:30 in the afternoon that he discovers the boss is vacationing in Vermont, meaning Dante is now stuck there. 

Randal, on the other hand, is a callous worker who only shows up because he enjoys chatting with 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 without even looking up from his magazine. Randal shows just how little he cares when, covering for Dante at one point, he sells 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 roadside drug dealers who spend their days... well,... standing by the side of the road! From this prime piece of real estate, Jay can mouth off at anyone 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. Mewes' Jay is loud, sexist, and extremely crude, a punk who never tires of being crass, whereas Smith's 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 late '70s drug culture; you don’t admire them, nor do you necessarily want to be them, but damned if they don’t bring a smile to your face!

Their introduction in Clerks 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 that, my friends, is how 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!