Sunday, July 23, 2006

Clerks II, A Long Winded and Rambling Analysis

Great tagline by the way.

In my opinion, Kevin Smith will go down as one of the most memorable, or at least, one of the most noteworthy filmmakers of his generation, more so for his perceived flaws and imperfections than any of his abrasive charms, though they are often one and the same.

Ezra Pound states: “… a good deal of BAD criticism has been written by men who assume that an author (or filmmaker in this case) is trying to do what he is NOT trying to do.” I don’t bring this up to suggest that Kevin Smith writes over the heads of the public at large, but rather askew of them. It’s impossible to review a Kevin Smith film as anything but a Kevin Smith film unless we’re talking about Jersey Girl, in which case it should be reviewed as a Cameron Crowe film. That’s not a good thing by the way. Having said that, I believe that we may finally, after twelve years, know what Kevin Smith is trying to say, or rather, NOT trying to say. I’m not saying the man is brilliant or super human, just generally misunderstood.

Say what you will about Jersey Girl, the film did the impossible; it made another Jay and Silent Bob flick seem like a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the film, just like I didn’t hate Jack Black in King Kong, I’d just rather not spend $8 on misdirected (or cast) execution that is little more than competent. If nothing else, Jersey Girl proved that playing to the center is not becoming of someone with Smith’s sensibilities.

Enough about the filmmaker, lets get to the film. Clerks II, a return to form, a return to Smith’s home and his two best characters, no, not Jay and Silent Bob, but Dante Hicks and Randall Graves.

As one would expect, little has changed for the Clerks on a professional level, same shit, different diaper, Clerks II rather focuses on the personal plight of the characters and the idea or expectation that “maturity” comes with age. The film comes as a refreshing change of pace to the countless number of movies inspiring us to shoot for the stars. Instead, the film really pays tribute to the other 99% of us who, for better or worse simply get by. I can’t help but read some autobiographical sentiments into this area of the plot, as Smith has found himself attached, in on capacity or another, to much more high profile projects, (Superman, Fletch, Green Hornet) yet whether by choice or otherwise, inevitably returns to his independent roots.

But unexpectedly and possibly more importantly than the blue-collar elements of Clerks II, is the love story. I can’t say that the attempt itself was unexpected, but rather the genuine emotional effect it had on me while simultaneously holding it’s own against “Pussy Trolls” and donkey shows. (AKA interspecies erotica)

Yes, the potty humor is as prevalent and as extreme (and in my opinion, as hilarious) as ever, as that singular element is quite possibly Kevin Smith’s greatest strength and weakness and has provided without a doubt one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in years; “Oh, cake.” You’ll laugh your ass off when it’s in context; trust me.

Back to the romance. A good part of the blame for the successful love story rests squarely on the shoulders of Rosario Dawson (Brian O’Halloran’s accidental love interest), who is more natural and genuinely likeable as any female character Smith has ever written. Hers would have been an easy character to fumble had it not been for the expert writing and casting, as the balance of being sexy and feminine while also being “one of the guys” is a juggling act that usually degrades into an idealized and phoney wet dream, (see: There’s Something About Marry, or better yet, don’t)

Another unlikely culprit aiding the development of dramatic subplots is the musical montage, three of them to be exact. Taking queues from filmmakers as varied as George Roy Hill to Stephen Chow, Smith uses this seemingly trite technique to great effect, adding a more subtle element of joy, curiosity and regret into an otherwise blunt and crass film for which he is known.

Along with Jay and Silent Bob being demoted back to wear they shine the most, drug dealing, slam dancing yard gnomes, Clerks II was, in my humble opinion, an unexpected treat. “Unexpected” seems to be the theme of this review, not to say that my expectations were low, per se, I just found an amazing balance to the film that I would have thought impossible considering the “dick and fart” roots of the film, which by no means take a back seat, but rather a sidecar. The perfect bookend to the turbulent ride Smith’s Jersey filmography has afforded us.

I assume and believe I’ve heard that Clerk’s II is Smith’s swan song for this particular group of reoccuring characters, and he is moving on to “bigger and better” things, whatever that means. But if Dante and Randall’s voluntary fate is any indication, Smith will always be the same working class film nerd who sold his comic book collection and changed the way we look at independent film forever, a short twelve years ago.


Bryan said...

I liked Jersey Girl.

Clerks II was good, but I don't think I can write a review as well as it seems Elias did.

Pirate Club said...

You should write for a living...
That was one of the most though-out succinct movie reviews I have ever read. And I agree, it was a good movie, the ending was way better than I could ever have hoped.


Elias said...

Holy freakin' crap Elias! Y'r review rocks the Casbah! Kiss me you fool!