"That guy's an asshole. Everybody that comes in here is way too uptight. This job would be great if it wasn't for the fucking customers."
— Randal Graves
"I'm not even supposed to be here today!"
— Dante Hicks
The ultimate low-budget success story that created the behemoth that is Kevin Smith (figuratively speaking of course).Filmed in 1993, but not theatrically released until 1994, it cost $27,000 to make, roughly the same price as a new car at the time. The film's final cost was $230,000 after the rights to the film's grunge and punk oriented soundtrack is added in, making it one of the few films in history where the rights to the soundtrack actually cost more than the film.Clerks was shot in the same convenience store where Smith worked at the time and featured a cast made up of Smith's friends (such as Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes and Scott Mosier) and family (in various small roles), Smith himself and a few local actors (such as Brian O'Halloran, who plays the lead role of Dante Hicks). When released, the film made its budget back several times over. Its success enabled Smith to make severalmorefilmswith some of the same charactersand settings.Surprisingly for a film with profanity and vulgar references, it manages to stay quite intelligent and upon release, it was well received by critics such as Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin. The film's success helped jump start the modern independent film industry (which actually began with Sex Lies & Videotape) and turned Miramax into a major distributor for said independent films, rivaled only by Polygram Filmed Entertainment and Fox Searchlight.The film is about a day in the life of a pair of friends, Dante Hicks and Randal Graves, working at Quick Stop and RST Video, respectively. Another group of friends, Jay and Silent Bob, deal drugs and hang out around Quick Stop. Dante is forced to come to work, although he wasn't supposed to be there that day (as he will constantly remind you.)Some time later, Randal shows up for work. He spends most of his day at the Quick Stop rather than working, though. Dante's girlfriend, Veronica, comes over to talk to him. There he finds out that she has... had quite a lot of fun. It's yet another thing Dante obsesses over.Later on, Dante closes up shop, because he had a hockey game to play that day. They play on the roof, but after an annoyed customer comes up, joins the game, and loses the puck, they have to stop and get back to work. They also go to a funeral, meet up with Dante's ex-girlfriend, who goes through some trauma, and get in a fight. In the end, they stop arguing and close up for the day.The earliest part of The View Askewniverse (though Mallrats, which came out later, is actually the day before the events of Clerks). With the obvious exception of Jay and Silent Bob, Dante and Randal are the most frequently recurring characters in the verse, having starred in an Animated Adaptation, Clerks: The Animated Series, several comics and more recently in a true sequel in the film, Clerks II.
This movie provides examples of:
Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The film itself. Kevin Smith financed the movie by hocking valuable comic books and buying supplies on his credit card. Had the movie flopped or not been picked up by a major studio, he'd have been left with tens of thousands in high-interest debt with no real job prospects.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: The Quick Stop is still open today. The RST Video next to it, however, is shuttered (however, all the tapes and other signage can be seen inside the abandoned shop, collecting dust). Fans of Kevin Smith see it almost as a pilgrimage to visit it.
Black Comedy: The whole film qualifies, but especially the ending, which features Caitlin accidentally having sex with a dead guy and having a mental breakdown over it.
According to Randal, how his cousin Walter died.
Blatant Lies: When Dante claims he was working "all day". Of course this backfires horribly.
Brick Joke: Randal mentions that he once had a cousin who died attempting autofellatio. A coroner later mentions that the strangest thing she had ever seen was when she had to tag a kid who died attempting autofellatio.
Dante tells Randal a story about how Caitlin had sex with him in a darkened room thinking he was someone else. Caitlin would later have sex in the darkened bathroom with a dead man thinking it is Dante.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Randal. Cunning, manipulative, acid-tongued, and very obviously whip-smart, yet content (in a discontented way) with his lot in life as a store clerk (and he doesn't even take that seriously).
Butt Monkey: Dante, although it's largely his own fault.
So much so that the MPAA was originally going to rate the movie NC-17 solely for the language.
Clutching Hand Trap: The idiot customer with the Pringles can. Dante subtly points this out by pouring the remaining Pringles into his hand while telling the customer that "sometimes you just need to let those hard-to-reach chips go."
Concept Video: The video for Soul Asylum's "Can't Even Tell" was directed by Kevin Smith, and includes all the characters from the film playing roof hockey with the band while Jay lip synchs the song by singing into a hockey stick.
It's notable that the while the movie is in Black and White the Video is in color.
Covers Always Lie: By the look of the poster, you would think that Veronica, Caitlin and Silent Bob also are clerks.
Cult Soundtrack: After the film was bought by Miramax, the studio added a very contemporary grunge/punk soundtrack. It was the first time in history that a film's soundtrack cost more than the entire production of the film (film: $27,000.00 Music: $30,000.00).
Did Not Get the Girl: Dante breaks up with Veronica midway and never rekindles his romance with Caitlin due to the restroom incident.
Dirty Old Man: The customer who asks to borrow porno mags while using the bathroom and dies in there.
Downer Ending: In the original cut, an armed robber enters the store right after closing, shoots Dante dead and empties the cash register. The protests of the film's agent John Pierson, as well as those of damn near everyone else involved (most prominently supporter Bob Hawk and star Brian O'Halloran), led to Smith cutting the ending short, and he professes to liking the final version better.
Dumbass Has a Point: Jay and Silent Bob makes a good point about Veronica being a good girlfriend.
Silent Bob: You know, there's a million fine-looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you.
Early-Bird Cameo: In the music video "Can't Even Tell", there's a little boy with a ball (just like the View Askew bumper) wearing a helmet.
Likewise, the discussion of how life is just a series of downer endings.
Foil: Two-person example. The Jay/Silent Bob duo is a Foil for the Dante/Randal one. Both of them are pairs of Vitriolic Best Buds, with a cocky, fair-haired Red Oni and a more cool-headed, dark-haired Blue Oni with a goatee. The difference is that (as Randal points out at the end) Jay and Silent Bob actually choose their bottom-rung jobs and freely embrace their status as hopeless lowlives, while Dante and Randal are still riddled with angst about theirs.
Higher Education Is for Women: Dante dropped out of college to work in an awful job; his girlfriend Veronica stays in college and tries to persuade him to return.
Hypocritical Humor: After the gum representative stirring up the angry mob against Dante for selling cigarettes (so he can actually sell the gum) has gone and the mob dispersed, one of the members of the mob sheepishly buys a pack of cigarettes from Dante afterwards. Dante is less than impressed.
Lampshaded that they point out that Randal hates people but loves social gatherings. Also he plans to rent a movie at a video store despite working at RST Video, justified that Randal claims "I work in a shitty video store!"
Also, to some, Dante. At least when it comes to the women he dates and to blaming all his problems on other people.
Most of the customers are incredible jerkasses.
Randal: This job would be great if it wasn't for the fucking customers.
The jerk-off customer, whose keys was thrown away by Dante.
Dante and Randal's boss (who was never named in the final cut, but a trimmed portion of the phone call has him named as Mr. Schneider). Turns out, he isn't coming in later, he instead ran off to Vermont.
The Gum Representive who incites the crowd of smokers to pelt Dante with cigarettes, so he can trick them to buy Gum.
The lawyer near the end; you can tell he's hardly containing his glee when he issues out that summons.
Sanford: Responsibility? What responsibility? You're closing the fucking store to play hockey!
Karma Houdini: Randal sells cigarettes to a little girl and Dante ends up getting saddled with the fine. And unlike everything else in the film, he doesn't even get properly called out on it.
The robber in the alternate ending who shoots and kills Dante and because Randal disabled the security cameras prior to the Hockey game on the roof, the cameras would never catch the robbery on film. Also after the credits of that ending Kevin Smith (as himself, not Silent Bob) steals some cigarettes and runs off after noticing Dante was murdered.
Loads and Loads of Roles: Several actors perform multiple small roles, because Smith didn't have the money to hire more actors.
Parrot Exposition: Randal will say something odd, Dante will repeat it, Randal will elaborate.
Pulled From Your Day Off: The entire film is the story of a day in the life of Dante, a convenience store clerk. It opens with him being called into work on his day off, and the rest of the film is a chronicle of Dante's misadventures during the day.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Kevin Smith actually worked at the convenience store depicted, and had to film his movie at night when it was closed, necessitating the whole "Gum in the window shutter locks" subplot to explain why they were down the entire time.
Serendipity Writes The Plot: The Quick-Stop wouldn't let Smith shoot inside during the day, so he had to film all the interior shots at night. To hide this, he came up with the idea of someone putting gum in the locks on the shutters, necessitating them staying closed all day.
Silly Walk: The wrangle, better known to fans as "the Randal strut".
The walk and Dante's line accompanying it at the end of the film was taken from Wrangler Jeans commercials and—even with all of the merchandise in the background of the store—was the only part of the film that needed to be edited to avoid legal issues. (Dante's line, referring to the walk as the "Wrangle", had to be ADRed in post.) Miramax got the company's permission to leave the line uncut on the "First Cut" disc of the Clerks X DVD release.
The explanation Smith gives in one of the Evening with Kevin Smith DVDs says that the cameraman was simply too impatient to wait for Mewes to show up, and didn't really care that Silent Bob wasn't really Silent Bob without the baseball cap.
The Slacker: Jay and Silent Bob and Randal. Especially Randal.
Soul-Sucking Retail Job: A convenience store sized version but nonetheless, one of the best on screen examples of the miserable retail work.
Speech-Centric Work: Setting the trend for many of Smith's later efforts, the film is light on plot, heavy on dialogue.
Spell My Name with an S: Randal's name is correctly spelled with one L, not two, but many fans still add the extra letter.
Unintentional Period Piece: Entirely grunge soundtrack? Check. Doc Martens and acid wash? Check. Video store stocked wall-to-wall with VHS? Check. It's the early '90s all right!
The Unfair Sex: Veronica slaps Dante and calls him for a pig for having sex with 12 women, while she's only ever slept with 3 guys. Dante however is wrong to be angry to learn of the 36 other guys she performed oral sex on and failed to mention. Granted, Dante's reaction is overblown and he quickly crosses the line, but given that she gave a rather vivid description of what "snowballing" is, you can see why he's so furious.
Dante leaves the higher ground pretty swiftly when he explains that it's a different question how many sex partners Veronica has had compared to how many sex partners he has had because in Veronica's case this is important.
Clerks - The Lost SceneThe incident that happened at Julie Dwyer's wake was actually never filmed but what happened was finally revealed in an animated short on the tenth anniversary DVD set. Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson reprised their roles and Joey Lauren Adams made a cameo as her character Alyssa from Chasing Amy.
This short provides examples of:
Continuity Nod: A nice subtle one - in Chasing Amy Alyssa mentions a fling with Caitlin Bree; after Dante complains about 'Caitlin and her secrets' Alyssa (who is clearly friends with Dante), not unkindly, tells him he "just has no idea sometimes", either as a subtle hint that Dante would be better off without Caitlin or as a tacit admission of guilt because Caitlin cheated on him with her.
The Jesus on the death cards is done in the style of the Buddy Christ and the two angels with him are Bartleby and Loki.
Willam from Mallrats is at the funeral.
Drop Dead Gorgeous: Invoked. Dante and Randall go to visit Julie's wake, an old girlfriend of Dante. When they get to the coffin they see she's only wearing a black bikini top on her upper half, and assume she probably requested it. Hilarity Ensues when they drop their keys in her lap.