Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer
A day in the life of two convenience store clerks as they discuss movies and relationships while trying to overcome the tedium of their job.
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Kevin Smith is a director who divides popular opinion. For every devoted fan of his sharp-witted, foul-mouthed humour, there's an equal number who find his work boring, offensive or amateurish. Even Smith himself might concede his detractors have a point - he's freely admitted that he's made a career out of telling "dick jokes," and seems comfortable working in his niche. But though he may never be Kubrick, Smith has never set out to be. His childhood and adolescence was packed with action movies and comic books, more esoteric fare only entering his orbit as he reached adulthood. His populist streak has no doubt been a major part of his success, but one need only watch Clerks to see the auteur beneath the baseball cap.
It should be noted that Smith didn't even seriously consider making a film until he saw Richard Linklater's Slacker. With the rise of independent film in the late Eighties and early Nineties, he was inspired to direct his own low-budget movie. What surprises, however, is how far Clerks is from the type of Hollywood product Smith grew up on.
Charting a day in the life of two convenience store clerks, Dante (O'Halloran) and Randal (Anderson), it is a very small, almost thoughtful film on the life of the wage slave. Oh, it's by no means social realism - the sheer absurdity of the characters' escapades can tell us as much - but the film resonates with anyone who has ever endured the soul-crushing, mind-numbing banality of working for minimum wage in a job you detest.
The main plot running through the movie is a burgeoning love triangle between Dante, his girlfriend Veronica (Ghigliotti) and an old flame, Caitlin (Spoonhauer.) But in all honesty, this is really a story about the love between two friends. Dante and Randal couldn't be more different - the former a high-strung whiner, the latter a wise-cracking troublemaker - but there's no denying their affection for one another, a bond formed through the shared experience of their job. Randal keeps Dante sane and Dante probably keeps Randal employed; together they make work life bearable, if nothing else.