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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The World Has Turned and Left Me Here

With yesterday being a day off, I took in an early afternoon screening of Clerks II. As someone who's had my fill of the cheerleading and mudslinging of writer/director Kevin Smith over the years, I wondered if I was seeing this flick out of some sense of loyalty. Well, shortly into the movie, I understood why I wanted to see this.

I was someone who didn't really get into Kevin's films until college, roughly a year before Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back came out. I had seen Clerks and Mallrats in high school, but didn't understand their brilliance until I saw Chasing Amy and Dogma. Make no mistake, the five movie posters signed by Kevin that hang in my room are a testament to my fandom. Now I'm at a point where I still really enjoy Kevin's writing (especially his Darth Vader piece in Rolling Stone last year) and all of his films, but I've had enough of Kevin Smith, the dodgy stand-up comedian and target for arguments among fanboys. Trying to speak of the merits in all of his films (including Jersey Girl) usually results in catty comments, eye-rolling and general immature warfare. I just don't have the desire to be around that stuff anymore.

When I heard there was going to be a sequel to Clerks, after much ballyhoo that the View Askewniverse was finished with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I felt this was pandering to the crowd that attends his Q&As. So there was a definitely large degree of trepidation on my part to skip out of the theatrical release of Clerks II and maybe rent it on DVD later this year. But, the word from Kevin and a number of reputable critics said that this film was about what happens when the world leaves the aging angry young man behind, I felt like this was right up my alley.

I can safely say Clerks II is right up my alley, in addition to the sidewalk and fire escape. While the vulgarity in the film feels like it's being vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, the heart of the film is what really makes this film work. Dealing with deeply-rooted friendships and romantic love may make immature fanboys squirm, but this is stuff that I, along with plenty of other people, often think about. This shows the kind of maturity Kevin showed in Jersey Girl, but works better in this film.

Something that was used effectively in Jersey Girl is used even more effectively in Clerks II: music montages. I'm talking scenes where no dialogue is spoken and it's all action. Jersey Girl features fantastic scenes with songs by Aimee Mann, Ben Folds and the Cure. Clerks II ups the ante with songs by Talking Heads, B.J. Thomas, the Jackson 5 and Smashing Pumpkins. To be honest, the go-kart racing scene with "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is one of the most genuine scenes Kevin has put to film.

Genuine emotion has a major part in this film. Forget the stylized dialogue that Kevin has been known for -- all of the main characters in this film give the kind of convincing emotion last seen in full display in Chasing Amy. While a donkey show may gross most people out, the sincerity of other scenes, like serious conversations between Dante and Randal and Dante and Becky, are what makes this all worth the while.

Why something like Clerks II hits close to home is because of this theme: we know we're not kids anymore, but we're not too hot on the idea of bending over backwards to society's norms. We may look foolish as angry young men/women in the bodies of twenty- or thirty-somethings, but we can't help it. We don't want to become pawns of society, but whether we like to admit it or not, we're already are in some form or fashion. Clerks II doesn't have the answers and doesn't try to sugar-coat matters, but it doesn't beat you over the head with negative or overtly harsh realities.

Clerks II is a film that couldn't have been imagined in 1994 by Kevin. This film comes straight from the heart and from a lot of growing in the twelve years since the original Clerks. I know hardcore fans will always hold flicks like Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy closer to their hearts, but I look forward to more of the growth Kevin has shown in recent years. Sure, he panders to the "Snoochie Boochies!" crowd at his Q&A's, does hammy skits for The Tonight Show and merchandises his soul for big chunks of change, but there's still plenty of genuine emotion and feeling that translates for me. I don't know how much longer I'll have those View Askewniverse posters up in my room, but I'll never forget how much his films and his writing have meant to me.

4 comments:

Matthew said...

"One ring to rule them all..."

Josh said...

Nice Weezer reset.

Too bad they turned and left the world (of good music) themselves.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy Kevin as he is, fanboy stuff an all. But even I had my doubts about Clerks 2.
But you nailed it. What makes this movie stand out and work is the heart. Those of us in our just hitting into our 30s could relate to a lot of the emotional stuff that was going on in that movie.
I agree about the vulgarity - sometimes it did just seem to be there for the hell of it. And agreed, the Jackson 5 clip in particular had me rolling....
The scene that really touched me the most was between Randall and Dante in prison. When Randall wears his heart on his sleeve like that, it really was moving. And Jesus, this is CLERKS we're talking about.
Critics who panned this movie, or fans who don't like it, just don't get it for what it is. Clerks 2 is a superb movie, and easily one of Kevin's best.
Great blog post....

Kim said...

Let's admit it. The reason Clerks II is so moving to some of us is because Kevin and his eloquent self has captured the hope and disapointment of our generation. He uses humor to coat this "autobiographical tale" so it entertains and goes down smooth while dealing with very significant issues. (Though, unlike many of us to whom the movie speaks, he has actually reached a high degree of his career potential.)

I don't know about the rest of you, but deep down I really want to save the world. Does that deep feeling of destiny come from watching too many heroic action movies as a kid? Probably! (Star Wars?) All really good people who follow their destiny can significantly improve the plight of the human race, right? And if you're really true to yourself, you'll find True Love!

We all hope for this, even if the drudgery of a 9 to 5 is sapping the life out of us. What's most significant and overlooked is that in addition to being socially astute there's another driving force behind Kevin's work... his Spirituality and his relationship with God. J.C. is all about improving society for the better. He's all about saving us from the mundane, conformist, soul sapping, fake, ultimately self-centered life that Dante was about to fall into if he moved to Florida. Jesus is our Buddy!

Speaking of Buddies, there's this beautiful balance in Dante and Randall's Friendship. Are they co-dependent or are they just awesome friends? When it really comes down to it they are both dysfunctional in some way. They, like most of us, need eachother to function and ultimately to succeed in conquering the empty drudgery of their jobs and the apparent bleakness of their futures. There used to be all this promise and hope, where has it gone? Randal even saves Dante from replacing one form of banality with another, more outwardly appealing one. It's like a type of salvation for the soul.

Clerks II, like other of Kevin's movies, leaves me with a renewed feeling of Hope for my own future. True Love does exist, and it can be found by the most ordinary, screw-up, unwilling hero, convenience store worker. Destiny and salvation are out there, but first they must be for ourselves before we can become altruistic. Dante did need saving!

"And now abide Faith, Hope, and Love, these three. And the greatest of these is Love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

So THANK YOU to Kevin for dicyphering the language of our generation and for giving us a little renewed hope for our futures and for the possibility of true love. May the real Buddy Christ speak to us all, and let each of us know how much he loves us, and like Randall and Dante, will never leave us.