Kevin Smith conjures a lot of feelings. Some think him a talented and charming podcaster that is a natural entertainer. Others think him something of a one-hit-wonder that just never quit. I myself see him as an imperfect storyteller with a heart of gold. This is ironic when you learn the inspiration for this latest film, Clerks III.
Clerks III is a film that once again follows the characters that Smith created 28 years ago on a wing and a prayer. Randall (Jeff Anderson) and Dante (Brian O’Halloran) are once again working at the Quickstop. Now co-owners they wile away the hours doing what they do best, talking to each other about trivial matters. That is until one eventful moment occurs, Randall has a heart attack. After surviving such a traumatic experience Randall decides that to try and reclaim some of the agency in his life he’ll make a film about his life with Dante helping him. From there hijinx ensues as Randall and Dante look back on a life perhaps not best lived.
I’m gonna make a movie!
One of the most fascinating elements of Clerks III is how once again Smith out metas himself. Taking direct inspiration from his own heart attack that also reinvigorated his view on life Smith once again pours a lot of himself into this story. This story of reevaluation of one’s life combined with the performances of Anderson and O’Halloran is a particularly moving and intimate one. When they talk about their lives, what has happened between the films they are bringing incredibly raw and powerful performances. These are actors who have grown up with their respective characters and it shows on screen. I won’t lie, they brought me to tears on several occasions. Their story which is at the centre of this film is a nuanced and beautiful one.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film is crammed full of that signature Smith “humour”. If like me you’ve grown up with Smith you will know his particular style of writing. It’s meta, full of nods to various intellectual properties, at times quite crude and filled to the brim with out-of-left field cameos. This worked for him back in the 90s and early 00s but recently many of his recent films have not been able to balance the heart with the humour and sadly Clerks III is no exception. In one scene Dante is bringing down the house as he laments his past and then in the next scene we’re watching celebrity besties being thrown at the screen. Its tonal whiplash is so strong I’m surprised it didn’t break my spine.
Ultimately though the writing and performance are strong enough that this film still shines despite the juvenile elements. If this is the end of these clerks, it is a fitting one and I’ll look back fondly on their surreal adventures.
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