Clerks Founder of Slacker Comedy




Clerks
Clerks, Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut as a writer and director of full-length films, made the “slacker comedy” genre famous. Slacker comedy is a genre essentially characterized by low budget filming, lower class characters and urban settings. Following the fairly successful formula of the 1991 release of Slacker, Clerks shows a day in the life of a couple of main characters with little action, but lots of dialogue. The cheap, black and white camera, used because of lack of money, not aesthetic quality, adds to the grittiness and realness of the film. According to Clerks.com, the movie was mainly funded by “ ten credit cards that Kevin [Smith] had to his name…a family donation, and paychecks from working at the Quick Stop and RST Video.” Before Clerks was released, it was sent to the Independent Feature Film Market, where Bob Hawk, a member of the Sundance Advisory Committee, saw and enjoyed the movie. After that, it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received an award and was picked up by Mirimax. Once it was released, Clerks gained a large following composed of mostly young, white males. Slacker, previously the definitive slacker-comedy, showed unmotivated, shabby and comical people in everyday situations. Clerks took Slacker and added wit, quicker comedy and gave it a plot. This revolutionized how we see the genre and raised the standards of the independent cinema audience.
Clerks is a movie telling the story of one day at a Quik Stop convenience store. The film is shot almost entirely inside the Quik Stop or its neighbor, RST Video. There are two main characters: Dante, played by Brian O’Halloran, and Randal Graves, played by Jeff Anderson, who had never acted before (Clerks.com). At the beginning of the movie Dante is called into work on his day off. The movie progresses and entertains with comedic encounters with customers, witty dialogue, and at the climax, an accidental necrophilic act. There is a plot and it consists mainly of Dante’s girl trouble. He is happy with his current girlfriend Veronica until he reads in a newspaper that his high school sweetheart is getting married to an Asian Studies major. The story continues from there, but the plot is not the important part of the film. It is more like the film’s reason to exist. The part of the movie that shines is the dialogue. This is typical of the slacker-comedy genre, which often portrays fast-paced, witty dialogue with little action. The only drawback to this is that sometimes Dante and Randall are speaking so fast that they are giving the audience a sort of verbal whiplash. This sometimes leaves a sense that the actors are actually acting and what they are saying are just lines. However, the setting, the code and the scripting of the film alleviate this problem. If anything, the sometimes strained speaking adds a sense of realism, further heightened by the black and white camera and the realistic setting. Taken from suntimes.com, this quote from Roger Ebert illustrates some of the film: “One of the many charms of Kevin Smith\'s "Clerks" is that it clocks a full day on the job. Its hero, Dante Hicks, is a clerk in a convenience store, and his friend Randal works next door in the video store. [The movie is] grungy and unkempt… They are tired and bored, underpaid and unlucky in love, and their encounters with customers feel like a series of psychological tests.”
A slacker-comedy can usually be defined as an independent release that portrays young characters who shy away from responsibility. The characters tend to settle for lower class jobs such as convenience store employees. The poorness of the characters can probably be related to the poorness of the producers. People creating realistic art tend to create worlds that resemble their own. The lack of wealth that the producers command is directly proportional to the budget of the movie. Due to the low budgets, the actors are usually inexperienced and the production value is low. The films usually try to make up for low production value with quick, witty, and well-written scripts. Juxtaposed to the well-written dialogue is the content of that dialogue, which is usually crude humor. While insightful comments are often made, they