MOTW: "Clerks" Movie Review

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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.
3.5

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MOTW: "Clerks" Movie Review

Rating: R
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 19, 1994
Directed by: Kevin Smith Genre: Comedy

Every generation has one movie that seems to embody its attitudes, aspirations, and social practices. For Generation X, those kids born after the baby boomers through the early 1980s, "Clerks" was that movie. The movie was also the introduction of writer/director Kevin Smith's iconic characters, Jay and Silent Bob, as well as one of the first screen appearances of stars who would go on to sell out box offices in the 2000s. Despite all its firsts, "Clerks" is best known for its snarky and novel view of young America in the early 1990s.

"Clerks" is a comedy set in one location, a corner convenience store in suburban New Jersey. Dante (Brian O'Halloran) is first on the scene. He's a clerk at the store, and he arrives at work to find the shuttered facilities sporting a sign reassuring patrons that the place is open for business. He works in this dead-end job next door to a video store where his friend Randall (Jeff Anderson) is pining away his own existence. These two friends commiserate on life, love, comics, and pop culture on a daily basis. On this day, however, things turn out a bit different and bring the friends out of their drudgery.

Dante's day starts to go downhill when he learns that his old high-school girlfriend, Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer), is getting married. This news bothers Dante because it points to the rut that the young man has found himself in—working at a convenience store amongst a bunch of lowlifes with no aspirations for himself. Besides Randall, the lowlifes in question include the venerable comedic duo of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). Later, Dante finds out that another ex has died. His thoughts of life and death fuel some erroneous decisions that bring on the dry laughs "Clerks" and Kevin Smith have become known for.

From sex with corpses to shoplifting stoners, breakups, fights, and cigarettes, "Clerks" takes audiences on a ride of scripted chaos that only lovers of dry, wry 90s humor will fully appreciate. Dante's quest for existential satisfaction clashes beautifully with his best friend's ignorant form of intelligence and the lackadaisical attitude that characterizes the other youths around him. The effect is not a deterrent from trouble, but it's the fuel to push this character further in one day than a normal person would go in a year. By the end of the day, Dante and Randall are not just ready to close their respective stores, they are ready to see what else life has in store for them.

Kevin Smith uses "Clerks" to debut his two recurring characters, Jay and Silent Bob, who would later go on to gain a cult following and pop-culture infamy. The duo consists of the idiotically philosophical pothead Jay, who runs a one-sided conversation while leaning against the wall of the convenience store all day. His musings are fueled by the grunts and simple, often misinterpreted gestures supplied by Silent Bob. This seemingly simple pair ends up supplying much of the film's comic gold.

"Clerks" was produced by Smith's own company, View Askewniverse Films. "Clerks" also launched Smith's career as a director, paving the way for other movies that would help introduce famous names such as Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and Joey Lauren Adams in films that continued the storylines introduced in "Clerks." The cult appeal of the film comes from the witty, memorable lines, such as Randall's "melodrama coming from you seems about as natural as oral bowel movement," and Caitlin's "I'm offering you my body, and you're offering me semantics." "Clerks" also popularized the word "dingleberry" and a few other explicit terms. The movie made it cool to be a geek and okay to insult people with words consisting of more than one syllable. It also made knowledge of pop culture a must for any intelligent Generation X conversation.

"Clerks" was simultaneously a glimpse into 90s youth culture and a culture-defining film. It created the pop-culture-referencing snark that would later grace such popular large- and small-screen works as "Gilmore Girls" and Juno." Smith's stoner jokes, raunchy musings, and novel look at the American slacker give audiences a hilarious walk down memory lane past those guys everyone knew who hung out at the Quickie Mart and still work there to this day. The film is perfect for any Gen Xer looking for some sophisticated laughs.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5