Ten years ago, independent filmmaker Kevin Smith got his start with this little film that has since become one of indie cinema’s greatest inspirations. Made for the paltry sum of $28,000, Clerks is an incredible success that deserves its hype.
Clerks is a spectacular joyride. Filmed in 16mm black and white, the film packs in non-stop humor (and extreme profanity) from start to finish, as the story traces a day in the life of Dante (Brian O’Halloran), a twentysomething convenience store clerk still living with his parents.
Dante’s day is traced from bad to worse, with his current girlfriend (Marilyn Ghigliotti), ex-girlfriend (Lisa Spoonauer), and irresponsible best friend (Kevin Anderson), weaving in and out of the picture. Anderson is a perfect choice to play as a foil against O’Halloran, and together, the two bring the buddy picture to a new level.
And while Clerks may appear to be a simple tale of man vs. society on the surface, it really packs a deeper punch. Smith has thrown together bits and pieces of a dozen modern morality fables, and he’s done it with ease. The true depth of the film is masked by the activity on the surface (much like the much-misunderstood Pulp Fiction), but on reflection, moviegoers will be impressed.
Clerks fails only on technical merits, for obvious reasons. The sound is bad at times, scenes are out of focus, and the acting has some flawed moments, but for the most part, the cast works, and the movie is an incredible and hilarious success. I was still smiling an hour after it ended.
DVD Update: Ten years later, Clerks gets the mega-disc treatment with a three-DVD box set. Enumerating all of the features would take hours to write (and read), but here’s a summary. Disc one offers the original feature, commentary from the principals (made in 1995), an animated version of one deleted scene, and a couple of Clerks-related shorts and TV spots. Disc two offers an earlier cut of the film (about 12 minutes longer and featuring a wildly different ending that you won’t believe was once attached to the film), with a 2004 audio commentary. Finally, disc three features a bazillion extras, including Smith’s student films and a new 90-minute documentary about the making of the film. Like Clerks? Like Kevin Smith? You’re gonna love this disc set.