I grew up watching Kevin Smith films. Clerks and Mallrats were movies I consistently replayed on my VCR throughout my high school and university years. I always enjoyed the banter and wordplay that Smith’s characters had, filled with pop culture references (especially Star Wars) and lots of crude humour and foul language. Kevin Smith’s wordplay would consistently make me laugh and even gave me aspirations to become a screenwriter, as his characters were articulate and always had the perfect comeback to whatever obstacle was thrown their way. I always felt that Clerks and Mallrats had more heart than critics and audiences gave Smith credit for. Most people tend to talk about the comedic moments in those films, instead of the quiet and serious interactions between the characters. It was those moments of tenderness that I found made the characters more relatable.
1997’s Chasing Amy was a seminal film for me. In my opinion, it is Smith’s best film because of the many heartfelt and genuine monologues that occur throughout it. The scene when Holden professes his love to Alyssa (which I had memorized at one point as I thought it was a perfect speech to say to someone in my life), as well as Silent Bob’s speech, which gave the film its name, are moments that have stayed with me all these years later because the words that were spoken were honest and true. So I knew that Smith was capable of telling a story that would give me the feels, but even I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised that it happened again to me in Clerks III.
The best way to describe Clerks III is that it is a greatest hits of moments from the series, although it primarily focuses on the events of the original Clerks. The plot reunites our favourite clerks, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), living out their days at the Quick Stop convenience store, making fun of the customers, and dealing with the ennui and despair of their daily lives. During a typical day, something atypical happens when Randal suffers a heart attack. After a successful surgery, Randal is inspired to make a movie about his life at the Quick Stop and needs Dante’s assistance. Randal is the ideas man, thinking of cool camera angles, writing the screenplay, and being the dreamer of the duo, but it is up to Dante to make the movie happen by securing financing, setting up auditions and hiring a Director of Photography.
I mentioned that the film feels like a greatest hits album because it recreates scenes from Clerks, such as hockey being played on the roof of the Quick Stop, Jay and Silent Bob hanging out front of the store selling drugs, an audition process that includes actors who have appeared in past films from the View Askewniverse (including the producer of the original Clerks, Scott Mosier), someone getting their hand stuck in a Pringles container, as well as a lot more pontificating on Star Wars. For hardcore fans, they even have a sequence that talks about the original ending of Clerks, which was Dante closing the Quick Stop, only to have a robber come to the store, shooting and killing him, even though Dante wasn’t supposed to be there that day (for those that don’t know, this scene was so depressing that Kevin Smith was advised to change it, even though Smith wanted to have a downer ending like The Empire Strikes Back or Do The Right Thing). The funny thing is, although I really enjoyed these scenes in the original film, they just didn’t have the same comedic impact this time around. They made me nostalgic and brought a smile seeing them recreated. It felt at times that I was watching a lot of nice moments and that was it.
As the film progressed, what really hit home for me was Dante’s story, as this is where the film really soared in my opinion. At the end of Clerks II, Dante ends up with Becky (played by Rosario Dawson), but we find out almost immediately at the start of Clerks III that Becky died shortly after the events of the last film. I give full marks to Rosario Dawson and Brian O’Halloran as every moment they are together in this film is pure magic. There is such warmth, tenderness and emotion in their scenes, that they’re truly what makes this film memorable.
There is a beautiful scene at a cemetery where Dante admits to Becky that he cannot move on from her, even though she wants him to. It was a touching and tender moment, filled with some crude dialogue, but that’s what made it work because their relationship was always like that. I began to realize, much like the characters, that it is these moments of honesty and truth and having the courage to share their feelings with one another, is what is important in life. Dante lays into Randal at one point for making him relive terrible moments of his life over and over again and how he almost had the life he always desired until Becky was taken from him and that he would never get a second chance at that dream. It just hit hard. This then leads into the final sequence of Clerks III, which might be the most poignant sequence Smith has ever written and put to film and will be a big reason why you will remember Clerks III long after the credits roll. There are some fantastic decisions made by Smith, especially in what shots he chose to include in Randal’s film at the end, as it just gave me all the feels.
As most people know, Kevin Smith suffered a heart attack a few years ago and that event in his life heavily influences the story of Clerks III. It also gave him something that he didn’t have when he was younger and that was perspective. Everyone who has ever worked in retail can relate to the mantra of Clerks, which is that “This job would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking customers.” When we’re younger, we think we have all the answers to life and are smarter than everyone that we interact with and that the world would be a better place if people only listened to us. When you’re older, that idealism slowly begins to turn into fear. Fear of not realizing your full potential, fear of losing the people around you, and fear that your life will not be what you planned. As time passes, that fear turns into appreciation for all the people that have come into your life, good and bad, as well as gratitude for all the experiences and knowledge you have gained from those people. If you stay through the credits, Smith’s voice comes on and he talks about this and how he now realizes that he was wrong about the mantra of Clerks and it was such a refreshing thing to hear and I appreciate him saying it.
Clerks III might be Kevin Smith’s most confident film and I promise that it will surprise viewers with its grace and heart. Much like Chasing Amy, there are moments that will stay with me from Clerks III for forever and a day and I’m filled with gratitude that Kevin Smith put this story on the big screen. It’s ok that maybe I didn’t laugh at the crude humour that I once did, because the most important thing in life are the relationships and bonds that you make with family, friends and loved ones, as those memories are the things that will last and be cherished. To those involved in the making of Clerks III, all I can say is thank you, even if you weren’t supposed to be here today.