KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CLERKS (1994)

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[Randal is on the phone when a woman and little girl come to the counter]
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: Excuse me. But do you sell videotapes?
Randal Graves: Yeah, what’re you looking for?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
Randal Graves: Uh, one second. I’m on the phone with the distribution house now; lemme make sure they got it.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: ‘Kay.
Randal Graves: What’s it called again?
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: “Happy Scrappy Hero Pup”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Happy Scrappy”!
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Mom: She loves it.
Randal Graves: Obviously.
[into the phone]
Randal Graves: Uh, yeah, hi, this is RST Video calling. Customer #4352. I’d like to place an order. Okay, I need one each of the following tapes: “Whispers in the Wind”, “To Each His Own”, “Put It Where It Doesn’t Belong”, “My Pipes Need Cleaning”, “All Tit-Fucking, Volume 8”, “I Need Your Cock”, “Ass-Worshipping Rimjobbers”, “My Cunt and Eight Shafts”, “Cum Clean”, “Cum-Gargling Naked Sluts”, “Cum Buns 3”, “Cumming in Socks”, “Cum on Eileen”, “Huge Black Cocks with Pearly White Cum”, “Girls Who Crave Cock”, “Girls Who Crave Cunt”, “Men Alone 2: The K-Y Connection”, “Pink Pussy Lips”, oh yeah, and, uh, “All Holes Filled with Hard Cock”.
‘Happy-Scrappy’ Kid: “Scrappy”!
Randal Graves: Yup. Oh, wait a minute.
[to the woman]
Randal Graves: Uh, what was that called again?

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

Inspired by the Richard Linklater independent film Slackers, Kevin Smith who was still a Film Studies College student decided to drop out and make a film himself with his friends. He got loans, maxed out his credit cards and convinced his friends and upcoming actors looking for a gig to join him to create a low-budget film based on a life in the day of a depressed Clerk Store worker. In Melbourne, Australia this would be the equivalent of working in a Milk Bar. Kevin Smith himself worked in a convenience store and came up with the story on those boring days stacking shelves and serving idiotic customers. The film mixes comedy with a side plot that borders on soap opera with the main character in a relationship but still pinning for the girl who got away in High School.

The film was a surprise hit when it came out in 1994 winning awards at Cannes Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival and it quickly became a cult hit with teens and young adults in the 90’s for its raunchy dialogue, witty script and relevance to a lot of disenfranchised young adults in the 90’s. Anyone who was working in a job they hated with dreams of more to life could easily connect to the character of Dante (Brian O’Halloran). Dante gets called into work on his day off, which becomes his catchphrase over the course of the film “I’m not even supposed to be here today”. He is a good guy and doesn’t want to upset his boss so he agrees to go to work even though he had planned a hockey match that afternoon (shades of Kevin Smith’s Hockey obsession are apparent here. Also after the 90’s any public appearance Kevin would always be wearing a hockey jersey). As Dante begins his day he has to deal with idiotic customers in and out. We are also introduced to his friend Randal (scene stealer Jeff Anderson) who works next door at the Video store. There conversations are where the film shines. From their musings on porn, Star Wars, customers, relationships all of it is gold and I believe makes this film break out the way it did.

There is a sub-plot involving Dante’s girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) who is good to him and tries to get him to move on with his life instead of wasting it working in the convenience store. Dante is disappointed when they share their sexual history and discovers she had felatio with many men. However the real reason Dante isn’t invested in Veronica is because he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer) who he discovers is getting married. Over the course of the day Dante has to deal with his feelings for both girls, while also trying to fit in a Hockey game upstairs and attend a funeral which doesn’t go well. (Check youtube for the animated delted scene).

Kevin Smith is brilliant with dialogue. His humour mixes pop culture relevance with crude low-brow punchlines. Throughout his films he has a great way with words. I would say this is his strongest quality as a filmmaker. His films (especially Clerks) aren’t visually appealing. He is no Scorsese. He relies on slow takes letting the characters revel in the dialogue with each other. The acting isn’t the best either but as it is a low-budget first feature you can forgive these minor quibbles.

Re-watching the film today you can see a talented filmmaker on the rise to success. He took a chance and he was rewarded with a great career in filmmaking and pop-culture. All his films aren’t classics but they all have entertaining characters, tight plots and brilliant dialogue. This could possibly be his best film and put him on my map of directors to watch.

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