Kevin Smith, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jeff Anderson, Brian O'Halloran, and Lisa Spoonauer in Clerks (1994)


(director/writer/producer/editor: Kevin Smith; cinematographer: David Klein; editor: Scott Mosier; music: Scott Angley; cast: Brian O’Halloran (Dante Hicks), Jeff Anderson (Randal Graves), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica), Lisa Spoonhauer (Caitlin Bree), Jason Mewes (Jay), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Scott Mosier; Miramax; 1994)

“If you dig low-brow humor and a high volume cynical slacker take on things, then this film delivers the goods.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Clerks won the Filmmaker’s Trophy at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival. It supposedly had the smallest budget of any film entered in the festival that year. The budget was reported to be $27,575. It’s a gross-out nonstop chatty comedy shot in black and white and set in the working class suburbs of New Jersey. In his first film feature Kevin Smith (“Chasing Amy”/Mallrats”) follows a day in the life of a besieged minimum-wage Quick Stop convenience store clerk Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) whose best friend Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) works next door at a video store.

Dante is pissed that he’s called in on a Saturday morning to work on his day off. At work he handles a variety of colorful customers who demand some attention and the work-related problem of the shutters to the outside won’t open. During dull moments Randal comes over to chew the fat and offers his opinion that Dante is too polite to his customers. They talk about their career dreams, the way Return of the Jedi ended on a morally dubious note, and the problems of Dante’s love life and the way his current girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) gives head and how she made him wary by revealing too much about her past sexual exploits. It turns out that Dante is an uptight dude with an oral fixation. His ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonhauer) whom he is still in love with and makes an attempt to get back with, breaks his heart with the news that she is getting married. Dante also frets that his boss hasn’t come in to take his place as promised, as he’s anxious to make it to a hockey game at 2 o’clock. There’s also the problem of another ex-girlfriend who died and today’s the last day he can go to her wake.

The 23-year-old Kevin Smith, a film school dropout, has worked on occasions at the Quick Stop in Leonardo, N. J., since he was 19 and shot his film at that drab location at night. Smith himself plays Silent Bob, while Jason Mewes plays Jay, his drug-dealing counterpart. The two have a comedy shtick that I didn’t find funny but supposedly it adds to the absurd antics and scuzzy feel of the film. If you dig low-brow humor and a high volume cynical slacker take on things, then this film delivers the goods. It covers territory such as how to be a smart-ass when dealing with customers and examining other people’s lives without looking at your own empty life, and relies on a continuous conversation that is pointless and sprinkled with pop-culture topics to make you forget there’s no plot. It’s catchy as some sort of sassy immature response to life’s overwhelming banality.