Clerks (1994)
Clerks (1994)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: October 19th, 1994 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Kevin Smith Actors: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, David Klein

 


 

B

eginning with some obscene animation (to introduce View Askew Productions), the movie proper picks up with Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) falling out of his closet – apparently where he fell asleep after closing at his work the night before. Fielding a call to come back in for yet another shift, Dante grabs a handful of clothes from a mound in the corner of his room and heads to Quick Stop Groceries, where he starts the duties of putting out newspapers, making coffee, and making a custom “open” sign when he’s unable to unlock the building’s shutters. “If you plan to shoplift, let us know,” reads a notice at the register, where Dante will be stationed – and stuck – for the next several hours.

Over the course of the day, Dante must contend with all sorts of oddballs – from an anti-smoking soapbox loiterer, to old acquaintances, to a man with his hand stuck in a Pringles can, to drug dealers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), to many other strange (or irate) customers – as well as getting into heated discussions with his girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) and chatting with pal Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), the clerk at the video store next door. And the numerous, spirited conversations range from lewd to vulgar, largely overstuffed with expletives. “Bunch of savages in this town.”

As a slice-of-life comedy about ordinary (and a few unordinary) youths (around college-age rather than high school), the film examines all sorts of adolescent topics, dwelling on past and present relationships and the monotony of clerking jobs, though most are based around sex and sexuality. With the limited sets and minimal characters, attention is paid most predominantly to the dialogue, which is consistently amusing and occasionally hilarious. Nothing is off-limits and nothing is too trivial to discuss in detail – whether it’s about the behind-the-scenes minutia of movies, or moronic questions, or what goes on in the minds of particularly unusual patrons.

“I’m not even supposed to be here today!” Divvied up into (unnecessary) named chapters that designate specific jokes, themes, or interactions, the film isn’t about a central story as much as it’s a series of vignettes in which Randal serves as a crass, perverted Jiminy Cricket to Dante’s ambivalent everyman. As he ponders his love life, upcoming events, upsetting his boss, responsibilities at the store, career potential, a hockey game, a past flame (Lisa Spoonauer), and much more, Dante also navigates an increasingly weirder onslaught of customers. And in this small town, everyone knows a bit too much about everyone else, which makes the confrontations just that much odder.

Though the individual parts – such as a few solid jokes, outlandish characters, and an outrageous quandary – tend to be more memorable than the whole, this ultra low-budget, independent project is undeniably impressive. Despite it’s obvious monetary constraints, lack of professional actors, primitive sound effects, and rough editing, creativity lurks around every corner. The humor is refreshing, the simplicity is admirable, the realism of depressing mediocrity is clear, and the soundtrack is lively; it’s a testament to how a movie can be made with virtually nonexistent resources – save for determination and a quirky script.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10