Review of Independent Media (Clerks, 1994)

Clerks is a film by Kevin Smith that was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. The film is a comedy about the people who run a small convenience store called the Quick Stop in suburban New Jersey. The two main characters are Randal and Dante who run the stores and have weird and interesting customer encounters as well as playing hockey on the roof of the store, going to a wake of a person they don’t know and a woman having sex with a dead guy in the convenience store bathroom.

The movie is Smith’s directorial debut and filmed in black and white, it went on to be the set-up film for Smith’s Viewaskewniverse (this being like the Marvel Cinematic Universe if it were comprised of indie comedies directed by Kevin Smith). The film looks at the life of counter clerks drawing from what seems like first-hand experience. It also has a very comfortable homemade feeling about it, you can tell by watching that the movie was written by people who are good friends and is almost a biopic of sorts of their day to day lives. Discussions in this film are full of pop culture references, hypothetical situations pitting fictional superheroes against one another and general banter between friends who hate their jobs and are just trying to pass the time.

Having had first-hand experience in customer service and working at a checkout, this film will definitely speak to anyone who has had to deal with a variety of quirky patrons. The movie does an excellent job of translating to the audience that working as a convenience store clerk is like stepping into another universe and getting to view society as it is because people who are shopping in a convenience store are always in an “in-between” moment of their life and have no need to put on a show for a clerk so you see them as they really are. It captures the art of people-watching in a unique way that had never been done before this film.

The mundane nature of the main characters’ jobs is the thing that drives the humour because we have all been there, in a situation where someone accidentally drop a drink from the fridge or the power goes out, which makes it easy to relate to and easy for us to find the comedy in it because it’s not currently happening to us. The experiences that Dante goes through in this film can be summed up in this quote from him “I’m stuck in a pit working for less than slave wages and dealing with every backward-assed fuck on the planet”.

The movie is a great satirical look and the everyday work life at what would seem like everybody’s first job. It also serves as inspiration to any up and coming filmmakers aspiring to be in the mainstream someday as Smith has built himself into a brand off the success of Clerks and the critical acclaim it received from Sundance in 1994. It certainly has influenced my film-making, writing and comedic style and I’m all the better for it (as I would have you believe).

Smith, K., & Mosier, S. (Producers), & Smith, K. (Director). (1994). Clerks [Motion picture]. United States: View Askew Productions & Miramax.

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