November 15, 2007

Mini-review: "Clerks" and "Clerks II"

(Now that winter is here in Chicago, I am doing a lot more reading and movie-watching, and a lot less bicycling and other exercise; among other things, it means a lot more genre projects I've taken on purely for pleasure, and other projects I don't feel like sitting down and writing a full review concerning. Hence this series of mini-reviews, none of which are longer than a couple of hundred words. To see the full combined list of all mini-reviews [books and movies], click here.)

Clerks, by Kevin Smith

Clerks II, by Kevin Smith

Clerks and Clerks II (movies; 1994 and 2004)
Written and directed by Kevin Smith

Although I had seen both when they originally came out, I recently had a chance to sit down and watch Kevin Smith's seminal slacker movie series Clerks and Clerks II in a row for the first time, via DVD. And hmm, what a more interesting experience these two movies are when doing such a thing; because let's face it, as great and entertaining as Smith is, all of his movies tend to be extremely talky and slowly paced, full of conclusions about life that are sometimes grossly obvious, sometimes obviously gross. (The original Clerks, after all, was the first movie in history to get an NC-17 rating for language alone, a situation that prompted his distribution company to hire famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz to plead an appeal to the MPAA ratings board, who eventually gave in and re-rated the movie R.)

For those who have never seen them, both movies concern a pair of best-friend losers in white-trash New Jersey, seemingly going nowhere in their lives while working as little as possible at a convenience store and video-hut center next-door to each other; the first movie takes place when the friends are both 22, right at the dawn of Generation-X self-awareness in the early '90s, while in the second movie both friends are now 32, working at a fast-food place because of the original mini-mall burning down, at a time when Generation X has taken over the entertainment industry and an entire younger generation are now officially sick of them. That's what makes it so interesting to watch both in a row, because it's obvious how much Smith understands the difference between these two characters being this way ten years apart; that in the original, there's a certain slacker nobility to the way these guys are blowing off corporate life (aka "real life"), while a decade later it simply makes them sad, paunchy, balding, aging hipsters, slowly creeping into middle age, unable to finally stand up and take on the responsibility that they should've taken on a long time ago.

Although both scripts ostensibly cover the same ground, Smith very deliberately puts in this difference between the characters from one movie to the other, in a subtle way that maybe doesn't jump out when watching the movies at distant times apart; it was pretty cool and interesting to see the differences pop out when watching them both in a row. Much recommended, along with the extensive documentaries on the DVDs about how these movies came together.

Out of 10: 9.2

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:42 AM, November 15, 2007. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |