(USA - 1994)

by Vanes Naldi & Dan McGowan

Cast: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith
Genre: Comedy
Director: Kevin Smith
Screenplay: Kevin Smith
Cinematography: David Klein
Composer: Scott Angley
Runtime: 97 minutes

Vanes: Two things make this movie very interesting: the way it was shot and the dialogue. Kevin Smith's "home made" approach spares us of shot manipulations. This better portrays the stale life of the two slacker clerks, who "literally" live at their workplace. The black and white grainy "amateur" looking cinematography is perfect because it lets us focus on what's important, the characters and what they say. There's really nothing else to portray. Colors don't matter. Locations don't matter. All we need to see is the clerks and their job because that seemingly has become their microcosm.

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For a movie whose premise is a comedy about two guys slacking all day in convenience stores and video rentals, there's awfully good character development and dialogue. Dante is always afraid of losing the staleness that his job generates. He's afraid to leave the place to play a hockey game on the roof or go to a funeral. He always talks about his shitty job and how he wants to change, but deep inside he doesn't really want to. He likes his microcosm. This is best portrayed in a brilliant dialogue with his best friend, Randal, after a fight; he doesn't want to change because he's afraid of change. Meanwhile, Randal is much more aware of his life, and even if he enjoys it. He understands that they want to keep their "slacker" status quo because they aren't ready for a change. He's an interesting character, multifaceted, one moment watching transvestites on a porn movie, the other describing his customers and their lives.

Dan: I can understand why people like Clerks, but it just falls flat for me. I guess one of the reasons is that I've worked jobs like this when I was younger but I never, ever thought anybody else would give a damn about my microcosm at work, so I don't find their microcosm interesting either.

Vanes:This movie would have probably failed as a "cult" without its comedy. There's plenty of laugh-out-loud material from start to finish, beginning with the dialogue that's full of toilet-humor but also some weird and bizarre happenings like Dante's ex high school sweetheart having sex with a dead man in a toilet.

Dan: I have a sick and dark sense of humor, but this was just cheap dark humor rather than the well thought out kind. The only funny parts in the movie that I found interesting and valuable were the others you mentioned: the discussions on the poor working stiffs who were killed trying to repair the Death Star. That scene was extremely funny, especially for someone like me who rooted for the Empire in all the Star Wars films. However, the hilarity of that dialogue only highlighted the poor quality of the rest of the film for me. I'm not a total Smith-hater either; I enjoyed Dogma and found it interesting. I just can't get past the poor quality in about every facet of Smith's earlier films.

Vanes: Some of the other funny moments come from surreal discussions, such as the importance of independent contractors who worked for the realization of the Death Star in rating which was better between The Empire Strikes Back or The Return of The Jedi. The fact that the same dialogue contains very smart and effective discussions on society, how life is lived in this microcosm, and the several déjà vu's of everyday life makes this first effort from Kevin Smith an enjoyable, brilliant and smart comedy about young guys afraid of growing up.

Dan: I felt the writing was generally poor, with a few exceptions, and the acting was horrendous. That may be part of the reason why Smith's dialogue doesn't impress me; he can't get his actors to understand comic timing at all. However, as much as I am indifferent to Clerks, it is a masterpiece compared to Smith's follow up, Mallrats, which may be the worst film of all time. That is saying a lot because I've seen some crusty movies in my day. At least in B - movies like Vampire Men of the Lost Planet there is some charm to the patheticness.




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