Friday, November 23, 2012

Clerks Movie Review

To get myself through college, I worked several menial jobs. I went through several second jobs which varied in terms of agreeableness. The primary job that I stuck with for four and a half years was at a Taco Bell. Oh, the stories I could tell about that. I related an experience to a friend about being berated by a customer because the tacos I gave her didn’t look as good as the ones pictured on the menu, and my friend told me I needed to watch Clerks (1994). It was almost like reliving my years at Taco Bell.
Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) works at a local convenience store in New Jersey. On this particular Saturday Morning, he gets called in on his day off. Once there, he must deal with multiple problems. The shutters outside won’t open. His ex-girlfriend Catlin (Lisa Spoonhauer), with  whom he is still in love, is getting married. His current girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) pressures him to return to college and mentions some intimate relationship she’s had before Dante. His boss hasn’t come in to take his place. He has a scheduled hockey game at two o’clock. Another ex-girlfriend has died, and today’s the last day he can go to her wake. He has to deal with customers who aren’t so intelligent or rational. His friend Randal (Jeff Anderson), a clerk at the video store next door, is even less dedicated to his job then Dante is to his own, and is always bothering Dante’s customers. And the biggest problem of them all: Dante’s not even supposed to be there today!
Between crude sexual discussions from coworkers, customers who were incapable of deciding or articulating what they want, inane drama between employees (and sometimes customers) resulting from who is sleeping with whom, the insultingly demeaning and repetitive work, and condescending managers with holier-than-thou attitudes, Clerks reminded me way too much of my experience working at Taco Bell. To be fair, the Store Manager I worked with was one of the few competent individuals working there, and possibly the best boss I’ve ever had. But I think that’s what makes Clerks so successful as a film; it’s unnervingly realistic in its absurdity. Anyone who’s ever worked fast food, at a convenience store, or at any other menial job will be able to empathize with the characters in Clerks.
Kevin Smith directed Clerks with a very modest budget of $27,575. He shot the whole thing at the Quick Stop where he worked while the store was closed. He had several family members and childhood friends act in the movie. The film was shot in black-and-white with what appears to be a convenience store security camera. This made the film look more realistic; as if it were real events haphazardly caught on film during a normal work day. Most of the movie takes place in the store itself, and the space constraints probably should have posed a problem, but Smith used some very creative shots in this dialogue-driven movie. In one scene Dante and Veronica are cuddled up on the floor behind the counter while he paints her nails as they talk, and to get some privacy. Dante leaves some change on the counter and a sign that reads, “Please leave money on the counter. Take change when applicable. Be honest.”
Clerks has a pretty weird sense of humor; it’s satirical, bleak, and sarcastic. I found myself rolling my eyes and muttering “ain’t that the truth” more than I was laughing at it. The fact that the store’s antics are so verisimilar is what makes them funny. Reality is funnier than fiction, it seems. At the same time it’s a remarkably crude movie. It was originally rated NC-17 based purely on the movie’s explicit sexual dialogue since it contains no violence or nudity. But Miramax films (Clerks distributor) set their lawyers upon MPAA and persuaded them to re-rate the film with a more commercially viable “R” rating. There were times the dialogue was just gross, but it really is the kind of thing I would hear coworkers talk about at Taco Bell; I kind of built up immunity to such discussions.
Clerks was well directed and well executed as a film. It’s a cult classic, and Kevin Smith has gone on to write and direct other successful films. It’s almost uncanny in its verisimilitude; therefore it will find an audience among clerks, menial labor workers, or anyone who has had such a job. I’m glad I saw it since it kind of put a humorous perspective on my past experiences, but I don’t intend to watch it again. I may have become tolerant of offensive dialogue, but it’s still offensive and I don’t really want to hear it any more than I must. That’s entirely a matter of personal preference, though. If you aren’t bothered by raunchy dialogue, or even enjoy it, you’ll probably love Clerks and may even consider getting a copy. Like I said, it’s a well written, directed, and executed movie.

What's the worst job you've ever had? What made it so lousy? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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