Cult classic encapsulates ‘90s but maintains relevance today

"Clerks" gives a healthy dose of nostalgia from the '90s.


It has always been a dream of mine to write a review of “Clerks,” and it is hard to do so without great bias. Along with being a truly iconic film of its era, “Clerks” is also the film that launched the career of one of the most successful and distinctly American directors of the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” is a dialogue-driven look into the lives of two convenience store clerks who cope with depressing situations, monotonous jobs, failing relationships and annoying customers through laughter and general smugness.

Dante Hicks is going nowhere in life. He is 22, works in a convenience store, and is constantly berated by his customers. To make matters even worse, he is called into work on his day off. Randall Graves, the personification of charming cynicism, works at the video store next door and regularly abandons his post to have pointless conversations with his best friend. The two discuss a wide variety of crass and surprisingly shrewd topics, ranging from “Star Wars” to female promiscuity. Despite not wanting to come into work for fear of wasting his day, Dante’s afternoon proves rather eventful as one of his ex-girlfriends comes back to town, his current girlfriend drops a bombshell on him (“37!”) and he and Randal crash a funeral.

The film climaxes with one of the most shocking and memorable moments in independent film, solidifying Kevin Smith’s eventual reputation as a vulgar, yet incredibly competent, film director.

“Clerks” is the film that skyrocketed Smith’s career as a director and is the product of exceptional hard work and unfailing determination. The film is in black and white only because color was too expensive. Smith filmed the movie at his own place of work, working at the convenience store during the day and filming his movie when the store closed, sleeping no more than an hour a day for the whole 21-day shoot.

While Smith’s later career and works might exhibit only a fraction of this determination and quality, “Clerks” is one of the few ’90s films from the grunge zeitgeist that still holds up perfectly to this day. The film’s characters are disgusting while managing to stay genuine, so much so that their talks seem less like bored work fodder and more like echoes of the discontented slacker generation as it slowly fades into obscurity.