Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Clerks (Smith. 1994)

"I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

I would like to think that I am a pretty liberal human being. It takes a lot to offend me, and it takes even more for that offense to stick. I think that Clerks is a film that is offensive enough to stick with me. I mean, I already cannot wait to watch it again - but I would never allow a young child to watch it with me.

Clerks is a comedy-drama directed by the now famous, Kevin Smith. It is an introduction into his trademark "View Askewniverse". This means that we are introduced to the morally despicable people who make up Smith's visionary world. First we meet Dante. A grocery store clerk called in on his day off, Dante is struggling with the news of his ex girlfriend's recent engagement to an Asian design major. He is also having a hard time dealing with the news of his current girlfriend's oral promiscuity (37 guys). Played by Brian O'Halloran, he is whiny and almost impossible to to sympathize with, but his character is nothing compared to the best friend.

Randal is a worker at the local video store connected to Dante's workplace. Best friends since high school, these two have a very typical guy relationship. Dante is more of the "straight man" and Randal is the comedic presence. His contributions to Clerks are his strange wisdom and unapologetic vulgarity. Jeff Anderson gives the Randal character a strange boyish charm. His speaking voice and vocal tone are innocent, but his actions seem to come from a defeated place. He is protective of his friend, but is still the first to accuse Dante of being a glutton for punishment.

But the most famous characters introduced in Clerks are the simpleminded drug dealers, Jay and Silent Bob. These two Smith trademarks have very limited screen time in their debut, but they add some fresh-air comedy to the stuffy convenient store setting. This is also the film that features the duo's most famous moment, the dance scene. According to Smith (who also plays Silent Bob), Jason Mewes was so camera shy that everyone had to actually leave the set for the scene to be shot.

What makes Clerks such a charming film is its extremely small, $230,000, budget. A lot of the film looks like it is shot with a security camera. The settings are actual stores in Smith's childhood area. The actors, for the most part, are friends with the writer/director. This is a film that is based almost entirely around snappy dialogue and ridiculous conversation topics. It is not a film that anyone would call exciting, but it does keep you interested through character development.

Clerks is not a film that will make you laugh out loud. It is a film full of giggle worthy moments and shock value laughs. Even with the tiny budget, that Smith accumulated by selling most of his personal comic book collection, Clerks is without a doubt a film worth seeing. The 90's cinematic equivalent of the Little Engine that Could, this is Kevin Smith's funniest film. It is also his only masterpiece.

Clerks: B-

My Next Film...O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coen Brothers. 2000)

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