Film #60: Clerks (1994)

Directed by: Kevin Smith
Language: English
Length: 92 minutes
Watched on: 17 July

Clerks is one of those films that I’d only ever managed to catch occasional bits of before. But it always seemed kinda funny. It’s famously very low budget, so low that they couldn’t afford colour film, and actually filmed it in their local convenience store (damn you Japanese, I keep wanting to type ‘combini’!) in New Jersey. It’s also famously a ‘cult’ film and it’s a well-regarded comedy, so I decided to watch it.

Kevin Smith’s films, of which I’ve already seen Dogma and maybe a bit of another one, seem to have some kind of strange continuity, especially with the background characters Jay and Silent Bob (Silent Bob is actually Smith, which might go some of the way to explaining that), who crop up in a lot of different movies and have one dedicated to themselves. So it’s kind of amusing for me because I was vaguely familiar with these characters to see them in their first screen appearance. But they’re not really important to the film.

The film follows a day in the life of two slacker store clerks, who work at a convenience store and video rental store that are next door to each other. I’m no good with character names, though; I’ve already forgotten them three days after watching the film. Video guy is around at the convenience store for most of the day, seemingly not bothering to ever do his job, while Convenience Store guy was called up at six in the morning, reluctantly, to cover for his boss. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that his initial reluctance turns to annoyance when his boss doesn’t show up.

I guess the main plot of the film is to do with the guy’s girlfriends, one ex and one current; he’s still in love with the ex, finds out via the paper that she’s getting married, and starts moping all day until she shows up and declares her love. Or something. It wasn’t actually that interesting.

What I actually gleaned from the film was that it’s more like sketch comedy. I guess this reflects the fact that such a colourful variety of characters come into any one convenience store over the course of a day – the film sort of focuses on one skit with a particular customer for a while, before moving onto the next. It starts with a man who comes in on some kind of mission to get people to stop smoking; he turns out to be a chewing gum salesman. The rest are pretty similar to that. Some of them are pretty funny, some are pretty boring. What all of them have in common is people being unexplainably idiotic, which is always good for a bit of absurd comedy.

Overall, I guess I’m still willing to watch more of Smith’s movies, but I think the humour in this film isn’t quite my style. I found bits of it funny, certainly, but I think it was quite bland. Or perhaps I just wasn’t identifying with it. I dunno, really. It was fine, just not the masterpiece that I’ve heard about.

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