Clerks shows us a day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal. They annoy customers, discuss a variety of topics and play hockey on the store roof. It’s an independent movie. Shot in black and white for a mere $27,000 by then newcomer Kevin Smith. What the movie lacks in visual flair it makes up in snappy dialogue.
Clerks doesn’t have much of a story. It’s more a series of vignettes each featuring peculiar customers or lengthy discussions between Dante, Randall and Dante’s girlfriend. Luckily Smith has a gifted mind when it comes to writing dialogue. A feat he would go on to display his subsequent studio movies like Mallrats, Dogma and Chasing Amy. In the 90s he was the Tarantino of comedies when it came to dialogue.
As a movie Clerks is rather rough around the edges. Nowadays anybody with a mobile phone can shoot a better looking movie than this. But Smith’s talent in telling a coherent story and decent editing holds this movie together. The movie is full of jokes. Lots of them dirty and introduces us the rapid line delivery of Jason Mewes’ character Jay. He and director Kevin Smith as Silent Bob would go on to portray these characters up until this day.
The weakest aspect of Clerks is that it is just a collection of vignettes. Most of them delivering dirty jokes. As with most jokes they are funny the first time you hear them. The second time not so much any more because you already know the punchline. Therefor Clerks is a movie that only fully works on its initial viewing. Though there are some lines that are instant classics and never grow old. Like the one about sucking 37 dicks.
Clerks is a truly funny movie and worth a watch. It’s also fun to see the humble beginnings of a director who went on to work with some of the biggest actors on the planet. In that way Clerks is even inspirational. If you sell your most prized possessions and max out your credit cards you too can become a Hollywood director. Kevin Smith might be the embodiment of the American dream.