It’s impossible to talk about independent movies without talking about “Clerks.”
“Clerks” is the first-ever movie from now-famous filmmaker Kevin Smith, and you can definitely tell. The comedy revolves around Dante, a convenience store worker who comes in on his day off, a day that turns out to be insane. It mixes situational humor with funny dialogue to create a comedic effect different from most modern comedies.
I found the story to be unique in comparison to a lot of things coming out around the time the movie was released in 1994. There are small, skit-like breaks in between big scenes that keep the story fresh and entertaining. One of my favorite scenes is at the end, when Dante and his friend, video store worker Randal, get into a big fight. The theme and story is wrapped up nicely as the men lay on the floor of the convenience store in a mess of wrappers. The subject matter itself is rather average, but the story is smart and relatable.
Sadly, there were also some big issues that I found hard to overlook. Firstly, this is such a man’s movie. All of the characters are men, save for a handful of women that are mostly girlfriends or sexual objects. The movie has such a dude-bro feel to it that it lost a lot of my interest. While I found the movie funny overall, I was unable to find humor in the more sexist jokes. The bathroom scene towards the end particularly does not sit well. In addition, while some of the interludes between bigger scenes are funny and well-timed, they sometimes also make the story a little more confusing and hard to follow. If you zone out for even a second, you’ll probably miss something. There are also a lot of explicit discussions among characters, which was unexpected. I wasn’t put off by it, but it might make others uncomfortable. While I found the movie humorous overall, there were some serious issues with it that could have easily been fixed.
This is also a technical mess of a movie. Considering Smith had zero formal filmmaking training aside from four months of film school, I’m not surprised. A lot of shots are long, and there is virtually no variety in shots. Sometimes there are whole conversations with one camera angle and one shot, which had to be a pain for the actors. It also adds no texture or depth to the scene. Only seeing a conversation from one angle, you can miss out on the little facial expressions or movements of actors that make films great. Sometimes camera movements don’t make sense for the shot and can be jarring because of this. It’s also riddled with continuity errors, and they shot the film in black and white because of the shoestring budget and lighting difficulties. On the brighter side, some of the shots were smooth and seamless, and sometimes I envisioned myself using a shot just like it. There was nothing huge with sound or lighting that really took me out of the scene, I just wish they’d paid more attention to some of the smaller things that can set a movie apart.
One of the highlights of the film are the two main actors: Brian O’Halloran as Dante and Jeff Anderson as Randal. The two have such a natural chemistry and their banter is incredible. Though sometimes I doubted the writing, I never doubted their acting. They’re so funny when it’s needed but also turn it down at the right moments. They made the film. I both love and hate their characters, which is how I think they should be viewed. The film wouldn’t be what it is without them. The only real problem I had with the acting was that at times, it was blatantly obvious they were reading lines. When you’re having a conversation with someone, there’s a slight natural pause between people talking. During “Clerks,” there is no space. Dialogue is unnaturally speedy and constructed.