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By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 05, 1994


Kevin Smith
Brian O'Halloran;
Jeff Anderson;
Marilyn Ghigliotti;
Lisa Spoonauer
Under 17 restricted

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If you gave Beavis and Butt-head a camera, they might come up with a film very much like “ Clerks.” Written and directed by Kevin Smith, this spotty movie about a day in the life of a convenience store clerk is a baleful ode to our junk-food culture. Shot on a shoestring budget of around $ 28,000 at the Quick Stop in Leonardo, N.J., where Smith actually works, this slipshod movie somehow manages to fashion a style out of its many deficiencies.

Amateurishly acted, clumsily edited and slapped together out of what looks like surveillance camera footage, the thing bumps along not so much on talent as on audacity. The protagonist is a big goof named Dante (Brian O’Halloran), who hates his job but can’t seem to work up the energy to move into a more productive line. He occupies his feeble mind with all sorts of trivialities. Uppermost is the announcement in the newspaper that his former girlfriend is getting married. Though he is currently going out with Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), Dante can’t get his mind off his ex-girlfriend, who comes by the shop to reassure him that the announcement was merely a “misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, Veronica informs him that she has been with a large number of other men. Not that she’s slept with them, mind you. She wasn’t in love with them, so instead she’s done other things—things that send Dante’s mind reeling.

Though far too laid-back to be alarmist, the movie does suggest that if this is America, we’re in big trouble. These young people are shiftless, irresponsible and without a trace of ambition, and they work their minimum-wage jobs with the sort of surly arrogance that suggests they are entitled to better.

At the video store next door, Dante’s pal Randal (Jeff Anderson) confronts patrons with unabashed rage. Then again, the customers at both stores look as if they recently escaped from the booby hatch: One man asks to use the convenience store restroom, then comes back to borrow a porno mag for entertainment.

Perhaps Smith and his partner, Scott Mosier, have revealed a face of America that most of us have refused to acknowledge. And perhaps “Clerks” is the movie that a nation sustained by TV Guide and Twinkies deserves.


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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