There’s always something, just when you think you’ve got life figured out, some comes along and smacks you right down again. Usually it’ll come in the form of a thousand little niggling things that trip you up. Clerks is a comedy that looks at a day in the life of a lowly convenience store worker. This is the everyman presented as a minimum wage employee, just trying to get himself by.By now the story of Kevin Smith’s rise to fame has become legend in the world of independent films. A first time director, Smith hit his first shot out of the park with this sharp-tongued fable about the meaninglessness of modern life. Looking back at that last sentence, perhaps I’ve made it sound like there is no fun to be had. Like the best of satire this one is packed chock a’ block full of laughs from beginning to end.
We see the life of Dante Hicks is all it’s mundane glory, he gets up, goes to work, and spends all day hating is job. Between fending off stupid questions from the customers, trying to get to his daily hockey game, and arguing about his school situation with his girlfriend Dante is just about worn ragged. He spends a whole lot of time kibitzing with his best friend Randal who works (ostensibly) in the video store net door. On top of all the indignities of his job, he learns that an ex-girlfriend who he’ never really gotten over is engaged to be married.
When it was first submitted to the MPAA Clerks received the first NC-17 rating to be based on language alone. And in an interesting bit of trivia, Alan Dershowitz was hired to appeal the rating and got the film through without any cuts. The language does get a bit thick at times, particularly in the area of graphic sexual content.
The fact that Smith is a first time director certainly shows in this movie, far from being dynamic, if you were to shut the sound off the movie would be boring as hell. He is really more of a writer who ended up directing his own script by default. So absent is the visual style here that at times the camera will cut to a completely unrelated shot just to break up a long stretch of dialogue. As far as performances go, Jeff Anderson as Randal is the only person who really stands out. Everybody else sounds like the worked on it just enough to get by at one time or another, while Anderson plays his role with an offhanded charm that at times threatens to overshadow Brian O'Halloran as Dante.
Ah, but the words…the words here are the real star of the show. Smith really seems to be in love with the English language, he puts words together in way that not only drives the action but rise to a level of profanity that is almost epic. They roll of the tongues in a way that makes the least experienced actors in the cast sound much better than they are.Still, to my mind, one of the best ‘first features’ that I have seen.