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Clerk (A Movie Review)

CLERK (2021)

Featuring Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran, Joey Lauren Adams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stan Lee, Mark Hamill, Justin Long, Penn Jillette, Richard Linklater, Judd Nelson, Jason Reitman, Michael Rooker, Scott Mosier, Grace Smith, Donald Smith, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Vincent Pereira, John Pierson, Janet Pierson, Trevor Groth, Betty Aberlin, Brian Quinn, Joe Quesada, Mark Bernardin, Raquel Castro and Lily-Rose Depp.

Directed by Malcolm Ingram.

Distributed by Mercantile Instinct. 115 minutes. Not Rated.

“When we made Clerks, I didn't even dream about going to a film festival,” Kevin Smith told me a couple of years ago on the red carpet at the Philadelphia Film Festival screening of the documentary on his life called Clerk. “We were dreaming about going to the independent feature film marketplace. I didn't think the film was festival-worthy, let alone Sundance. While we were making that film I never once thought, ‘Oh my God, what if somebody makes a documentary about me one day?’ That’s mind bending.”

Yes, Kevin Smith has had a long, strange trip in the last thirty or so years. This film, directed by former film journalist turned documentarian and Smith’s long-time friend Malcolm Ingram, gives a pretty good overview of the life of the head of the View Askewniverse.

As noted above, this film has been making the rounds of film festivals for a couple of years (which explains why Clerk ends on Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, not Smith’s more current film Clerks 3), but now it is being released on video. (For hard copy fans, VHS and Blu-Ray copies of Clerk will only be available for purchase via Mercantile Instinct's website –

Clerk takes a good look at Smith’s life – an aspect which fraught right off the top because his professional career is so wide-ranging, in subjects, in different mediums and even in quality. (After all, this is the guy who wrote and directed Yoga Hosers and Tusk.)

The most interesting part of the film, somewhat naturally, looks at Smith’s early filmmaking career, and how he was learning as he went on making such classics as Clerks and Chasing Amy (as well as some more problematic films like Mallrats and Dogma).

Looking at his halting steps towards film stardom – as shared by Smith and members of his regular troupe like Brian O’Halloran and Jason Mewes (surprisingly there is no appearance by Jeff Anderson) as well as some of the then-unknown actors Smith helped to break (including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Joey Lauren Adams) – makes for some intriguing looks behind the scenes.

However, while his career as a writer/director (and sometime actor) pretty much peaked in those early years, he has worked in an interesting if sometimes disappointing group of films ever since. (He briefly retired from filmmaking after a traumatizing experience working with Bruce Willis in Cop Out.)

However, in the mid-late period of his career, Smith has branched out and reinvented himself as the ultimate fan boy creator, taking on such diverse interests as comic books (creating and selling), opening and running stores (including reopening the original Clerks store), social media, podcasting and finding what seems to be his true calling as a public speaker, doing long lectures and Q&As on his passions and his career.

Of course, one of the great dramas of his life happened after one of those appearances, when Smith had a major heart attack and came close to ending. It has led to many changes in Smith’s lifestyle – a great loss of weight, a new seriousness of purpose and a decision to throw himself more fully back into filmmaking. (In Clerk, Smith acknowledges that he did not want to die and have Yoga Hosers be his last film.)

Still, in the long run, Smith is happy with the path his life has taken.

“I'm sure if I go back in time and tell the young me like, ‘Hey, keep this up. They're going to make a documentary about you,’ he’d be like, ‘What did we do? Who did we kill? Why did that happen?’” Smith laughed to me when I spoke with him at that red carpet interview. “Just you live long enough and fucking they make a documentary about you. But yeah, there's a lot of things I would love to tell that kid. I wouldn't change a fucking thing, because all of his choices led to this moment for me, which absolutely rocks.”

Clerk shows many of the moments which absolutely rocked him.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: September 26, 2023.


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