Words by Matt Poe

“Clerks” (1994)

Netflix Star Rating: ★★★½☆☆
Poe’s Star Rating: ★★★★½☆ (this thing’s a riot)


A day in the life of Dante, a disgruntled 20-something who gets called into work at the convenience store on his day off. Along with his friend Randall, the two bums show us that even the most ordinary days aren’t so ordinary.

Category: Comedy, Independent

Rated R for extensive use of extremely explicit sex-related dialogue

Starring Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti and Jason Mewes

Written and directed by Kevin Smith

Welcome back to another edition of Poe’s Picks, your one-stop-shop for all things Netflix. We’ve got a great one on tap for you here, which has become the standard here on Poe’s Picks but also raised some questions from readers. Recently, a friend of mine asked if I always gave favorable reviews on the blog here and it got me thinking.

I can only recall one time not giving a favorable review for a movie on Poe’s Picks, something you won’t find in virtually any other film reviewers library.

There’s a lot of godawful movies I’ve seen in my days, many of which I wish I could un-see for a variety of reasons. If you know me at all, personally or vicariously through the internet, you know I love to criticize and point out what’s wrong with many things. It’s both a gift and a curse, trust me. Anyway, the reason most of those reviews are favorable is because I want to share the movies with you that I feel are worth both my time and yours. Sooner or later, we’ll dissect a truly awful movie and you’ll see the wrath unleashed MUAHAHA. *sprays cat with a hose*

clerks
Photo Courtesy of IMDB.

Netflix can be a dark place filled with atrocious movies. As your shepherd, it is my duty to gently nudge you little lambs in the right direction and hopefully suggest a positive movie-going experience. Now come along, little lambs, we must make haste.

“Clerks” is one of those movies I’ve been meaning to get around to for quite some time. It falls into one of my favorite genres of film: independent, low budget ‘90s films. How hipster of me, I know. With all the bullshit going on in the rest of the world, I needed a good laugh and finally found time to watch this. Thankfully, it was time well spent, I might add.

Dante (O’Halloran) is a 22-year-old man who works in a convenience store somewhere in New Jersey. He’s got plans to play hockey today, but the boss unexpectedly calls him in on his day off and he reluctantly goes. Next door, his friend Randall (Anderson) runs the video store back in a time when such stores existed on every block. The two pass the time standing around reading magazines (no smartphones, how’d they survive?!), begrudgingly helping customers and doing all they can to survive work to play some hockey afterward.

The cast of characters who inhabit the surrounding areas and convenience store are a real eye-sore: There’s Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith, himself) who post up outside selling weed and rapping to pass the time. Dante’s girlfriend, Veronica (Ghigliotti) frequently drops by to check in on him and the two get into a hilarious argument about the number of times fellatio was performed on different partners. Various oddball customers visit the store for cigarettes, nudie magazines and more throughout the day.

That’s it. That’s the setup. It’s not much in the way of plot, but as you know, I am not a man of plot because it is overrated. Characters and dialogue are what concerns me and “Clerks” has some of the most unique characters ever to grace the screen. It’s dialogue, meanwhile, is some of the best I’ve ever heard. Smith made the film on a meager budget of $230,000, making the film all the more impressive.

The conversations between the characters feel more real than any I’ve seen in recent memory, the best including one between Dante and Randall on the amount of construction workers killed when the second Death Star explodes in “Return of the Jedi.” Jay and Silent Bob also bring some hilarious moments together and I urge you to see their stand-alone film “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” another Smith film.

Most of Smith’s films exist in one universe where characters frequently show up in other movies and disappear. He’s not the best director, but his ability to write is profound and his impact on the ‘90s independent cinema scene is vastly underrated. Jay and Silent Bob both pop up in many of Smith’s other films, as well as several other characters.

“Clerks,” for all its vulgar raunchiness, has a lot to say about life. For starters, take a look at our anti-hero, Dante. He continually complains and moans about how much he hates working at the convenience store and how much he got screwed for having to come in on his day off. Like most of us, though, he puts the blame for what happens to him on others, never accepting the results of his actions; nothing holds him back from quitting the store, yet he can’t summon enough in him to do it.

This is a perfect movie for young adults who may feel like they’re stuck in neutral, which all of us have at some point. Both Dante and Randall are in self-imposed purgatory, stuck between adolescence and adulthood but not ready to give up the former or embrace the latter. All young people can relate to that.

“Clerks” is really about staring into the unknown and Smith conveys that feeling perfectly throughout the film. Sure, it’s a comedy that’s filled with tons of genital jokes, but there is an underlying poignancy and nostalgia to the film. That’s life in general: finding the humor and beauty in everyday life that can feel so mundane, even if it comes by way of selling porno magazines and cigarettes.

Thanks for reading and enjoy yourself.

Until next time.

In Good Films We Trust,

Matt “Roger Ebert wishes he was half the film critic I am” Poe