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#TBT: Clerks

by Lainey Harlow, Copy Editor

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Rating: 8/10

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes

Director: Kevin Smith

Release Date: October 19, 1994

MPAA Rating: R

Some films seek to transport viewers from the mundane of their daily lives to the strange and fantastic of fictional worlds. Clerks, however, embraces the unremarkable in all of its monotonous glory.

Clerks’ meager $27,575 budget and black-and-white shooting resulted in a purely authentic look at a day in the life of the every-man. What the film lacked in smooth editing and well-known casting was more than made up in relatability, insight, and quick wit.

The film opens on Daunte, a convenience store clerk in his early twenties who reluctantly covers a shift on his day off. Stuck in a rut at a dead-end job with no plans to continue his education, Daunte is shown to be dissatisfied with his current place in life, but unwilling to risk his comfortably predictable norm. Throughout the film, viewers are introduced to Veronica, Daunte’s attentive, loyal girlfriend whose extensive history with other men upsets Daunte, Caitlin, his longtime highschool girlfriend whose frequent cheating left him unmotivated and hung up on the relationship, and Randal, his best friend and coworker who sees their jobs as inconsequential and unserious, frequently mocking customers and engaging in vulgar conversation. Secondary characters Jay and Silent Bob, drug dealers who would later make frequent appearances in Smith’s subsequent films, loiter outside of the store and offer memorable one-liners and odd charm.

While the film is largely composed of episodic subplots, including knocking over a casket at a funeral, a rooftop hockey game, and a lengthy discussion of the morality of attacking the Death Star in Star Wars, the overlying plot deals with Daunte’s internal conflicts regarding both going back to his unfaithful high school sweetheart and pursuing something more meaningful than his unfulfilling job and daily life. The most poignant example of his inability to make a move is Randal’s insightful claim that Daunte is, “ever backing down…you always back down. You assume blame that’s not yours, you come in on your day off, you buckle like a belt”.

 In the midst of seemingly unrelated dialogue and daily goings-ons, Clerks is both entertainingly lighthearted and subtly insightful. The characters are extremely realistic and appropriately dry despite occasionally forced acting due to the largely unprofessional cast.

 The film is by no means visually stunning or conventionally attractive, but still managed to leave a lasting impression as a cult-classic. Much like the small corner-store it depicts, Clerks has a sort of oddly comforting charm.

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