Mostly everything you need to know about this movie is contained within this clip:
In a probably cliche word, irreverent. In more words, keep reading what I’m writing. I still don’t completely get Kevin Smith, but I think I’m on the road to getting him after seeing this movie. It’s his first, and it’s brilliant. To make a first movie like this is a huge feat, especially one so unpretentious and simple and hilarious and poetic and, yes, irreverent. Smith was 24 at the time; we should all be so lucky to accomplish our Clerks while we’re still young.
It’s very difficult to decide what I love most about the movie. Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson are so believably stuck in their mediocre lives, it’s actually really not funny and almost sad, but at the same time, their wittiness reminds you that many good things are bourne out of small towns and often still remain there, for better or for worse. It also reminds you that speaking what you think all the time can make life a lot more exciting, and potentially dramatic, and probably harmful, but that’s what’s got to happen in a small town. Especially whilst working in a tandem convenience store and video store.
Despite this whole thing being and looking low-budget, it doesn’t have a “cheap” feel at all. Smith made the most of his dollars and cents; shooting in black-and-white gives it this profound air, but again, it doesn’t overlap into pretentiousness. You can also see just how much of a film nerd he is by what music he uses, what lighting he selects, and how he writes dialogue. This movie could have looked flashier and shinier, but it wouldn’t have been the same movie. Instead, it’s this lovely movie prototype, stylistically, that also happens to be really good on its own.
Smith also casts people who were unknown and, with the exception of starring in other movies of his, remain pretty unknown to this day. Not recognizing anyone as you sink deeper into the clerks’ lives really gives you a sense of how boring life can be, and how desperately you (or anyone else) might want to try to liven things up. Besides the aforementioned O’Halloran and Anderson, the two ladies (Marilyn Ghigliotti and Lisa Spoonhauer) are both big-city gorgeous but hung up on the charms of their small-lives and, specifically, the small-town man that is O’Halloran’s Dante Hicks. I can’t place why they find him attractive, but the short-lived love triangle is fascinating nonetheless.
And then you’ve got Jay and Silent Bob, stars of the above clip, who come in every once in awhile to make shit hilarious. They succeed.
I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the movie, and hope that it (and that clip, and this post) convinces you to step back 20 years and enjoy Kevin Smith’s debut.
“I’m offering you my body and you’re offering me semantics.”