Walt Flanagan, David Klein
- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Will Harris
ante Hicks is not even supposed to be here today…but, then, if you’ve stopped by the Quickstop in Leonardo, New Jersey, you probably already know that; I mean, he’s telling everyone.
Written and directed by Kevin Smith, “Clerks” is the story of Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran), a convenience store clerk whose life is at a virtual standstill. This, however, is not a new development; it hasn’t really gone anywhere since he graduated from high school. He hasn’t been to college, though his girlfriend, Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), would prefer that he start. He just works at the Quickstop, plays hockey when time allows, and chats with his friend Randal (Jeff Anderson), who works at the video store next door and, if possible, has even less aspiration than Dante.
Filmed in black and white, the events of “Clerks” unfold over the course of a single day, one where, as noted, Dante’s stuck working at the Quickstop. It’s a hell of a day. He deals with a seemingly never-ending series of customers wanting to buy cigarettes (not to mention an anti-tobacco activist) and search through his dairy section for the best possible milk and eggs available, even as he waits in vain for his boss to show up to relieve him. While stuck at the store, he also watches as his personal life goes into turmoil, with his current girlfriend giving him shit about getting an education before dropping a bombshell about her sexual history, his ex-girlfriend wanting to get back together with him, and hearing that a former flame has died. And somewhere in the midst of this, he manages to find time to discuss the tragic fate of the independent contractors working on the Death Star in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
Randal gets most of the best and funniest dialogue, reportedly because Smith originally intended to take the role himself. (Instead, Smith plays the nearly-mute pot dealer, Silent Bob, who still manages to get one of the film’s best lines.) His encounters with the various customers at the video store result are hysterical, one of which involves the recitation of a long string of porno film titles so graphic you won’t believe the scene also features a pre-schooler. The pairing of the aforementioned Silent Bob and his far more talkative buddy, Jay, presents filmgoers with a duo who rank right up there with Cheech and Chong as some of the funniest pharmaceutical reps (so to speak) in celluloid history.
The acting isn’t spectacular; several of the actors – most in their first-ever film roles – stumble over their lines, a tendency which is sometimes endearing but mostly makes you wonder why Smith didn’t go back and do another take. (The answer is that Smith maxed out his credit cards to make the film – at a cost of $27,575 – so he didn’t exactly have the money to finance a lot of re-shoots.) The script, however, is hilarious, unafraid to tackle the occasionally foul mouths of the average clerk jockey. Some of the dialogue is a bit wordy and unrealistic, but it’s all part of the Kevin Smith style; you quickly come to expect it from his characters.
The tag line to the film, “Just because they serve you doesn’t mean they have to like you,” couldn’t be truer; “Clerks” is to sales clerks what “Office Space” is to cube-farm drones. In addition to revealing the stupidity of their surroundings and the crap they have to deal with day in and day out, it also shows – in Dante’s case, at least – that clerks are human beings, too. If you’ve ever spent any time in a mind-numbing, soul-sucking retail job, you’ll view this as the gospel according to Kevin Smith.
15th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray Review:
There has yet to be a Kevin Smith film that wasn’t totally tricked out with oodles of special features, but the 15th anniversary edition of “Clerks” has so much extra stuff that even fans will find it an exhausting viewing experience. For starters, there are two versions of the film to choose from – the theatrical release and the “first cut” – and both have their own audio commentaries, the latter of which was recorded for the 10th anniversary release. Also included is a tremendously in-depth making-of documentary, a featurette on the film’s unexpected success, an inside look at the restoration process, and a 10th Anniversary Q&A with the cast and crew. And still there’s more, like a handful of MTV spots starring Jay and Silent Bob, original film auditions, an animated version of a “lost scene,” and a short film starring Dante and Randal that was made for “The Tonight Show.” Rounding out the Blu-ray release is a new introduction by Kevin Smith and a never-before-seen documentary called “Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party.” Granted, it’s not actually about “Clerks,” but rather “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” but fans of the director won’t mind, because if you love one of his films, you probably love them all.