Clerks III: Return of the Kevin Smith

I watched the original Clerks movie as a kid before I ever had a job. What drew me to the movie was how different it was from other flicks at the time. It was the first indie movie I ever watched and I honestly have no idea how it came into my hands. I think I might have rented it from Blockbuster or pulled it from a five dollar bin at Wal-Mart. It is equally possible it simply manifested under my futon one night. What I can tell you is that my first copy was definitely on VHS, just to whisk you away into this far distant past that has long faded into obscurity.

And this movie was extremely experimental as far as things went. It was a slice of life of a convenience store clerk before America really got the whole slice of life brand and it predated the funny-to-hate-customer’s movie Waiting by nine years.

It had all of these little scenes that didn’t necessarily add into something more. It was vignettes of conversations around nerd culture and parodies of customer interactions. It tied together these bigger philosophical ideas, with dick and fart jokes and shock humor. And ultimately the movie was just this ode to being human. Not the grand spectacle of humanity, but the mundane reflections of a security camera capturing folks living their ordinary life.

And I had no idea the impact this movie would have on me and how I saw art. This movie wasn’t made from H̷o̶l̸l̸y̸w̷o̶o̶d studios. It was a passion project from Kevin Smith, with a desire to express himself and his life. I believe he once told a story about getting a massive amount of credit by lying about his income as a store manager just to afford to make the movie. If it failed, there was no second chance for him and probably a million timelines where he is still just a manager of a store wishing he could’ve made it.

There are a few important things I want to look at here, dear reader, but I’m going to start with just our perception of art in general and Kevin Smith’s relationship to the art industry as an outsider. I think this is absolutely critical for understanding him and the movie Clerks III — and ultimately why I think this movie is something special.

What the Fuck is Art?

About two years ago, I wrote about the movie Sideways. I really disliked that movie and was extremely surprised to find out how many people loved it. I did not understand its reception and I started to wonder why I see movies differently than other people. The broader question I came to realize related to how I see and interact with art itself. And I found that I really dislike the triple AAA movie studio magic. I dislike movies that are designed to be polished projects to sell. I hate the sterility we find in productions that are just designed to be made, because someone funded and hired the writers and directors to do it. And I hate seeing things that feel like a bunch of disconnected old, rich dudes trying to be profound.

What I care about in art is the message the artist wants to get out. Not the art they actually produce, not the way they want the audience to understand it, but what drove them to create art in the first place. And since this is my passion and interest, no product that is designed to just exist solely for the sake of expression or art really matters to me. If someone sits down to write, just for the sake of writing, I don’t care what they have to say. If they’re making a movie for the sake of making a movie, that doesn’t matter to me.

What is more important to me is they have some itch to create something or explore some topic or theme. And I’m not saying artists must exist within these creative spaces full stop and never should think about marketing or money, just that I need this baseline care somewhere in a product. I need that passion to exist at some fundamental level or it feels soulless to me. Or (and this is important) it has to trick me into thinking it has some soul.

When I write on Medium, it is because I have a topic I want to explore. I wrote a literal novel with a read time over two hours and published it for free here. So, it is also very much how I write and interact with art personally. It is what I want out of art and what I respect out of artists. And what I didn’t realize was how much Clerks was just a tiny seed that blossomed into this preference.

To understand this, let’s look at the common criticism this film received

I want to say this film was universally loved, but the critics here represent a pretty diverse range of common complaints against not just Clerks, but any movie that isn’t really an establishment movie. Where every part is nitpicked for not being perfect or up to the movie magic standard of true art and movie entertainment.

And the reason is that Kevin Smith is very much an outsider artist and director. He went to film school, but he doesn’t follow the conventions of the modern or historic moving making lens. And I’m not going to devote a lot of time to unpack everything that could mean, but for comparison think about our Marvel superhero movies.

These are perfect movies. The casting, acting, and pacing is checking every box for perfect movie enjoyment. A thousand focus groups, a million hours of analytics, a team of professionals, and you could practically make them forever. They’re fun, light, try to say something without being too offensive, and get you to talk a little bit. They’re movies decided in a board room long before you ever sit down to watch them.

Faye, Marvel is obviously popcorn movies for the witless and uncultured, what about Ỏ̸̭s̵̬̏c̷͈͛a̴̛̺r̷̼̍ ̶͎̈́M̴̭̃o̵̮̅v̴͕̊i̸̱̓e̵̱͋ś̴̮? Oh, yeah sure. Those are movies that either are masturbatory odes to reverent filmography/culture featuring largely white characters or powerful odes to romanticizing the struggles of marginalized groups featuring largely white directors — exceptions apply.

And the point I’m making here isn’t that Marvel or Ỏ̸̭s̵̬̏c̷͈͛a̴̛̺r̷̼̍s ̶͎̈́ are bad. But they tend to be made with a specific audience in mind. And since they are being made for this audience, the tools presented to artists are inherently limited and intrinsically corrupted by this demand. Art exists in a realm where it needs to be massively appealing, because the funding wants a return on investment. Which means all art in this capacity becomes sterilized with others’ expectations.

So, what happens when we don’t sanitize work? What kind of art exists when humans just art? Well, one thing that comes to mind is Magnolia. A movie where the director Paul Thomas Anderson was given the green light to make whatever movie he wanted. And he settled on this holistic slice of life opera with a three hour run time. A movie that would never in a million years get financed on the script alone. A movie that was deeply personal and powerful, with no real market for an audience except with the association of the director.

And take all of this together to consider the art you interact with. The stuff that gets produced into movies or novels, how much is it a compromise between the artist’s vision and the producer’s demands for economic viability? The whole point of this is that Kevin Smith always did operate within the restrictions of being financed and landing an audience for the films he produced. And he did some very corporate movies within his career, but he also did his own passion projects. Zack and Miri Make a Porno is probably the perfect fusion of Smith balancing the line between his artistic side and corporate side. He even talks about the movie being something that can break the Smith bubble, which is that his movies tend to never gross over 30 million.

So, to step back a second, I’m not suggesting his work is the highest art that exists, but I am suggesting that his Clerks universe is solely his art. It is his expression. It is stories of his life that interest him and he wants to shoot. It is him interacting with his friends. They are not movies that exist to capture everyone, but movies that do invite people in to them.

And a wild thing is that I’ve listened to Kevin Smith for over twenty years. I can’t tell you if it was his storytelling on stage, commentary on DVD, or what — but I remember him talking about the funding for movies and Mallrats being this 200,000 budget movie that his producer just had a nightmare trying to make work. I remember him saying he got Ben Affleck for basically 12 dollars an hour for Jersey Girl, because Ben was begging to do another movie. I remember him talking about Wayne Gretzky for a long time before getting into a story about Bruce Willis nearly punching him. And a wild thing happened. Sometime between me watching Clerks as a kid on VHS and today, about thirty years passed. And this is important.

Before we talk about Clerks III, I’m going to take a Detour. We’re going to briefly discuss Jay and Silent Bob the Reboot. If you’d like to skip this section, there is a handy feature built into Medium that will get you to the point of an article faster. You just need to press Alt and F4 at the same time. Remember this code for other articles!

Jay and Silent Bob the Reboot

Both Clerks III and the Reboot are metacontextual films. For the film Reboot we are looking at an extended story of Jay and Silent Bob having their actual names s̵̨͙̈́t̴̨̯̐o̸̲̼̿̉l̶̫̔e̷̦͚̊ṅ̵͕͠ ̵̫̙͐̾b̴̈́ͅy̷̺̫̅ ̷̪͋͌H̸͇͌ŏ̶̜̲͗ľ̷͖l̷̢̺͂͋y̷̢͍̍w̸̰̚o̶͎̳̐ò̷̥̔d̸̥̃͗ and their fight to effectively get them back. It was interestingly supposed to have a third arc to the story featuring Stan Lee, which was scrapped due to his death. I would honestly love to read how that was supposed to go.

What Jay and Silent Bob learn is that there is going to be a reboot of Bluntman and Chronic movie. So, the operative goal of the movie is Jay and Silent Bob want to go shut it down, to make the property fail, and therefore get the rights back to their names. Effectively, aping the plot of the original Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back movie.

So, the movie we’re watching is a movie about a reboot, that is also a reboot. And as they talk about this, they ask who would want to watch a movie like this and the actors turn to the camera to look at us on our couch, somehow still wearing that same black shirt, and they flick us off. What assholes!

But this scene works on a few different levels. We’re watching a metacommentary on reboots, we are watching a reboot, and we are watching something that is part of the View Askewniverse — basically where the majority of Kevin Smith films take place and share continuity.

This moment of breaking the fourth wall and including the audience in on the joke is going to be a polarizing moment. If you’re a fan of this work, you see it as a nod and a wink to the shared experience, culture, and jokes of the universe. If you don’t care or want some kind of immersive detached story, then it pulls you right out of it and makes you feel awful about either the movie or yourself.

A consistent criticism we see for many of Smith’s works is you have to be a Kevin Smith fan to really enjoy them. And for every movie after Clerks, we see a consistent trend of discrepancy between critic and audience reaction to these films. Clerks was on Rotten Tomatoes with about a 90% Critic / 90% Audience approval. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was a 52% / 75%. Then we have the Reboot:

And just what do the critics say here?

I know Rotten tomatoes isn’t like the be all source of criticism, but it is so insanely easy to use to lump a ton of different opinions together to prove a point. Keep in mind each of these are just a pull quote from a larger article, but this is what I hate about folks who critique and review movies.

The common themes of critique are that Smith is still an amateur film maker, that his jokes are stale, that his self referential and deprecating humor doesn’t work, and the story falls flat. And these all just feel so stilted. T̴̠̏h̶̩͛͝ĕ̴̙͇y̷͈̪͑̀ ̴͍͒f̴̬̄͝ȩ̶͓̀̍ẹ̷̌̍l̴̘̹̊ ̵͍͊̔s̸̥͒͝ỏ̴̹̭ ̷̙͋H̷͖͂̓͜o̸̰̅l̷̼̮͠l̵̻̋y̷̧̢͑̄w̷͓͌ö̸̮o̷̹͒d̴͉͛̚.̷͕͝ ̴̪̗̑Ä̶̧́n̷̞͗d̵͍͉͒͌ ̶̱̤̋̇İ̷̫ ̴̨̧͠m̷̜̍͘ẽ̶̥̽à̷̟n̵̦̬̽͝ what else could you expect of a movie critic? Movies are supposed to be a certain way, you know. And what is with all the swearing? Doesn’t Smith know how crude swearing sounds to professionals? Idiot.

And what I see missing here is exploring why there are die hard Kevin Smith fans. Every critic waves this away as some kind of masterbatory sycophants too stupid to get movies or art, ready to be fed the same garbage forever. Some pine that Smith has been costing on the fame of Clerks or earlier titles and nobody in their right mind would like his new work. They say it is cashing in and he is a pathetic old has been, where seeing forty year old potheads is just sad and depressing.

And you know what I saw, dear reader? I saw something else.

I care more about what an artist is trying to say, than anything else. And when an artist has a lot to say, I find that something worse listening to. Another director who g̴̼̓e̷̝͝t̷̡̒s̷̰͗ ̶͚̚s̷͚̊i̷̧͆milar f̴̤̎l̴̫͌a̴̝͠k̴͔̈́ is Adam Sandler. Sandler also basically doesn’t care ̵̠̇á̶̟b̷͍̐o̸͇̔ṳ̷̓t̴̰̦̒̂ H̷͇͈̫͉̃̈́͌o̴̱̍͐̆̄̈́͂͘l̸̙̹͔̝̅̇̈́͐͂͐l̵͉͔͕̩̜̫̍͠ỷ̸͉̞̗̜͑̉̎̊̄̓w̴̳͔̌̏̂ͅơ̸̡͌̎͑̉̉̕ȍ̵̡͈͙͖̌͜d̴̯͐̈́͌͂̉̑ a̵̼̽n̴̤̎ḍ̵̕ just makes the movies he wants to make. They’ve ranged from s̸͓̄o̶̙͗m̶̰͐e̶̗̓ ̴̪̀o̷͖͌f̸̺̑ the worse movies humanity has produced to some of the most moving. And along with them critics will often bemoan this mass of diehard Sandler fans that keep the machine running. Well, until they find themselves liking a movie, then they spend a few paragraphs justifying why this movie is an exception. Nobody ever complaints about the mass of die hard Curtiz fans, you know?

But the thing is Sandler is rarely trying to say something in his movies. They are typically pretty shallow explorations of one or two ideas. He makes movies for the sake of making movies. And some movies he makes are phenomenal, but I wouldn’t often defend him like I do Smith.

And looking at Jay and Silent Bob the Reboot, I see this movie that is the perfect evolution of everything we saw in the original. It is a very sophisticated movie that weaves together the constructs it is criticizing, with the story it is telling, and makes the entire movie much more meaningful, full of heart, and engaging than the original.

I think Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a whatever stoner comedy that functions as a parody piece with components o̴̦͘f̷̼͛ c̴̅͜r̴͙̽i̷̱͑t̷̼̎ĩ̶̢c̵̛͓i̶͍͂s̸̩̒m̶͖͐on ť̷̰h̴̜͒e̷͖̓ movie industry itself. It’s a fun and light romp t̷͎̐h̶̫̚r̴̫̈́o̶̔ͅu̷̗͆g̵̝͘h̶̚͜ H̷͇͈̫͉̃̈́͌o̴̱̍͐̆̄̈́͂͘l̸̙̹͔̝̅̇̈́͐͂͐l̵͉͔͕̩̜̫̍͠ỷ̸͉̞̗̜͑̉̎̊̄̓w̴̳͔̌̏̂ͅơ̸̡͌̎͑̉̉̕ȍ̵̡͈͙͖̌͜d̴̯͐̈́͌͂̉̑,b̵̪̀ṵ̸͆t̷̗̀ I don’t think it intends to serve much more than the function of e̷̱͑a̸͕͗c̸͎͗h̴̠̆ ̸̱̓s̴͠ͅc̶͍̍ē̶͙ṇ̵́e̷̮̾.

The Reboot features a storyline where Jay finds out he has a teenage daughter. That girl, Millie, doesn’t know her father is Jay. And a lot of the tension of the movie is Jay coming to terms with being an absent father, what it means to be a dad, what it means to not have a dad, and what that means for his life.

And here is the thing. If you’re just paying attention to the movie you’re watching, if you just spend 90 minutes with it, and go write your review, I don’t think you can fully grasp what the author is trying to say. And this is where the movie is an incredibly rich experience, when you do have the context and history of Smith’s work. It isn’t something that stoners watch and love simply because they’re brainless fans. It is something that rewards honest engagement.

Because we have two decades of this character being a fun loser, who never cared about consequence. Who lived his life moment to moment. Who effectively just reacted to situations, rather than thought about them. If you have twenty years of experience with this character, the gravity of the situation and tenseness we see within his scenes are that much stronger. And the sadness you can feel, when he calls her dad a loser not worth meeting is a much more damning statement — because we have twenty years of this character being a goofball to draw on for contrast.

When your lens of Smith’s movies are silly dick and fart jokes, you really fail to see where the serious moments happen, because there isn’t a divide. The biggest disconnect I see from professionals of any type is a belief silly and serious are separated by a wall. You must be one or the other and Smith doesn’t play that way. We see the serious and silly dick and fart joke movie about a daughter abandoned by her father and that stoner coming to terms with it.

And this is the movie. This is the story it tells.

A̷n̵d̸ ̷i̵t̴ ̸i̷s̸n̴’̵t̸ ̴s̶o̸m̶e̶t̶h̵i̶n̴g̸ ̸I̸ ̴t̸h̸i̷n̴k̶ ̴c̶r̶i̴t̵i̸c̵s̷ ̴c̸a̴n̸ ̶r̴e̸a̴l̵l̸y̷ ̸g̴e̸t̴,̵ ̸b̶e̸c̴a̵u̶s̴e̶ ̵w̴h̶a̴t̵ ̵i̷s̶ ̷e̵v̷o̴l̶v̶i̸n̵g̷ ̸i̸s̶n̷’̷t̵ ̵S̷m̴i̷t̴h̵’̷s̴ ̴H̷͇͈̫͉̃̈́͌o̴̱̍͐̆̄̈́͂͘l̸̙̹͔̝̅̇̈́͐͂͐l̵͉͔͕̩̜̫̍͠ỷ̸͉̞̗̜͑̉̎̊̄̓w̴̳͔̌̏̂ͅơ̸̡͌̎͑̉̉̕ȍ̵̡͈͙͖̌͜d̴̯͐̈́͌͂̉̑ c̵h̷o̵p̵s̷ ̷o̷f̵ ̸c̵i̸n̵e̶m̵a̴t̴o̵g̶r̴a̴p̷h̵y̴.̴ ̸H̷e̵ ̸i̴s̴n̸’̸t̴ ̴m̸a̷k̵i̷n̸g̷ ̶a̶ ̵t̸r̶i̴p̶l̷e̵ ̴A̷A̷A̴ ̴H̷͇͈̫͉̃̈́͌o̴̱̍͐̆̄̈́͂͘l̸̙̹͔̝̅̇̈́͐͂͐l̵͉͔͕̩̜̫̍͠ỷ̸͉̞̗̜͑̉̎̊̄̓w̴̳͔̌̏̂ͅơ̸̡͌̎͑̉̉̕ȍ̵̡͈͙͖̌͜d̴̯͐̈́͌͂̉̑ p̵r̷o̶d̷u̸c̷t̴i̸o̸n̸.̵ ̴W̵h̵a̸t̶ ̵i̶s̵ ̶e̸v̶o̴l̷v̵i̵n̷g̷ ̴h̷i̴s̸ ̷o̵w̸n̶ ̴v̴o̵i̵c̵e̵,̶ ̴h̸i̷s̷ ̸o̸w̸n̶ ̴s̷t̴o̴r̶y̷ ̴t̴e̶l̸l̵i̴n̵g̷,̶ ̶a̴n̴d̵ ̸h̶i̸s̵ ̵l̴i̵f̵e̵.̵ And if you don’t pay attention to it, you’re not going to notice the shift. And I’m someone who has. I’m someone who has spent twenty years with these characters living somewhere in my head. Someone who has listen to Kevin Smith talk about stories and art. And as someone like that, I can tell you that Jay and Silent Bob The Reboot is a masterclass of Smith style story telling. It’s beautiful man.

It is always effy to get into the headspace of telling someone their review is wrong because they didn’t get it. But I have read their reviews and I do understand what many reported on. And while it’s fair enough to toss it aside, to not have a history with it, to not want to engage with it, or whatever — I don’t think the way they dismiss it is particularly fair or enlightening. I see people looking at the extreme surface of what they saw, not expecting any depth to the water, and declaring it was as bad as they probably envisioned it was walking in.

Aside from the movie’s story, there is one thing of phenomenal value we get in visiting these characters again twenty years later. The aging in this movie is both real and central to the themes. These characters wear that time. Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back feature a pretty young cast. They were twenty to thirty somethings that were largely young and attractive people. And looking at the cast now we see what age does to a p̷e̷r̴s̷o̴n̸.

H̷͇͈̫͉̃̈́͌o̴̱̍͐̆̄̈́͂͘l̸̙̹͔̝̅̇̈́͐͂͐l̵͉͔͕̩̜̫̍͠ỷ̸͉̞̗̜͑̉̎̊̄̓w̴̳͔̌̏̂ͅơ̸̡͌̎͑̉̉̕ȍ̵̡͈͙͖̌͜d̴͐̈́͌͂̉̑ ̯u̷s̸ually allows young hotness or old busted for casting. Through t̷h̸e̵ ̶m̴a̴g̴i̷c̶ of make-up a person looks twenty forever, until they graduate and start playing moms or grandmas. Their look morphs from sex appeal to maternal, wise, or down to earth. You can start to have a diverse body, because you’re not the eye candy anymore. And our expectations of appearance, age, and value between those too things are incredibly distorted by film. A distortion that starts to impact even the written word when you talk about them.

What we see in Jay and Silent Bob The Reboot is the same cast. We see people actually age. We see the normal progression of aging and how people are still people. That aging isn’t a scary thing. That you don’t stop being relevant as you get older, especially women. That the young hot love interested in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is the middle age hot love interested in The Reboot for a hot second. A real hot second. Fill the cup. Also a lesbian now, so double win.

I saw a review that talked about Jay being old as a sad and pathetic thing. That it was fine for him to be a young pothead, but sad that he never changed. And that feels so…awful to have that take. Because what is success? What should you do with your life? How should you look or act?

I think the story of Jay is a much more honest and relatable one. He lived his life in what seemed like the way he wanted. He didn’t have dreams or aspirations that failed him or made him bitter. He took each day as it came and ended up taking two decades of them and once saved the world. That character is not a sad character, unless you project a lot of judgment and value onto him. And I think understanding all of this is understanding a near universal love for this movie, with a trepid amount of critics coming along for the ride.

The reason I feel this movie is tied to Clerks III is because of that element of aging. We aren’t just revisiting worlds to revisit nostalgia, we are seeing these worlds decades apart. We are seeing growth, aging, and looking at life. These are all intrinsically built into these stories in an organic way that you can’t just write.

When we think about Death of the Audience as a framework of criticism, we have to acknowledge the value that exists outside of author’s intention or audience’s understanding of a given work. It is the conversation of a work within our culture and between artist and audience. And I think if we’re just looking at Jay and Silent Bob the Remake in isolation of itself, then it isn’t a good movie. But it was never intended to exist in isolation. It was intended to exist with twenty years of history. If the story was stoner loser has daughter and needs to deal with that, that is a whatever story. But the story is a twenty year old goofball is now a middle aged man, still living his best life and now has to content with a responsibility and relationship he never dreamed or imagined.

And when I see a fifty year old skinny guy in jorts holding a cardboard sign saying “Kevin Smith is Dog Shit” to protest these movies, I sigh at how much is lost. The biggest difference between these movies and what

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is doing is their reboots are typically a new fresh cast that uses older members as throwaway pieces to get new investment. In the movie biz nobody is allowed to age. The story is a static perpetual motion machine of frozen culture never allowed to die. Smith’s stories and worlds are real, they’re human, and they’re allowed to age.

Article Break

Anyways, make sure to drink some water and do a little stretching. Also, if you’ve been staring at your computer screen for a long time, make sure you’re blinking and try looking twenty feet away for twenty seconds. Can help with eye strain and all of that!

What’s going on, you’re wondering? Why is there an Article Break? Yes, yes, great questions and I’m glad I pretended you’re asking them. I’m sure you may even have other questions related to things like “Breach”. You may have come from a future article looking for answers here about something entirely unrelated or some hope. Has Faye started talking about the Demon Ero yet? Who is to really say?

Why would someone be coming from the future? What is your long game here, Faye? You may also ask.

Ha ha, so inquisitive. That’s what I love about you, dear reader. And you may think to yourself, Faye can’t know that. These are just static words that simply exist. Yet, when you read them, don’t they come alive again? Aren’t you inquisitive by the act of engaging in them? They exist as a self-affirming thought, where for most people they never exist nor are ever correct…but for those who read them…they do exist for they are. Basically the whole, “I think therefor I am” logic applied to writing. Fun, right? Oh, the fun we’re having right now.

You see, I keep my bases covered like that.

Old Abe once mused that the only true statement was, “And this too shall pass”. Turns out it was a Persian adage first, who knew? Guess they passed. Point being is my statements are true so long as they exist. They’re conditional like that. And once they don’t exist, it doesn’t super matter.

At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with this article?

And honestly the real question to ask is what does this article have to do with Faye. And the topic we’d be exploring is something a bit deeper about the nature of work, engagement, and writing itself. Especially on websites like Mediums and why people engage where and how they do with it. An interactive commentary piece spanning a dozen articles to create something more. Or that’s the point. Still unlockable by the simple keystrokes of Alt and F4 pressed at the same time. But really, the point isn’t simple. Everyone is so concerned with points, they’ve stopped looking at lines. We’re so far removed that we could barely grasp cubes or spheres. Consider tesseracts right out.*

Ninth Editor’s Note: This section makes no sense and is completely irrelevant to your article, you need to delete this immediately. You cannot keep adding in grammatical mistakes and calling them art. I have no idea what you’re doing with some of your text, it looks distorted and needs to be fixed for readability and clarity. You do want people to actually read the shit you write, correct?

Seriously, why are you even paying to have an editor if you’re just going to ignore everything we tell you. Also, do not include my notes into your piece. These editing notes are solely my intellectual property and if I see them in your article, I will press charges.

Clerks III

Who is Mick LaSalle? Like you don’t know. Stop being such a kidder. Twenty two years ago Mick LaSalle wrote this:

And, I checked, I couldn’t find anyone else who gave both Clerks and Clerks III a bad review. Mick LaSalle stands proudly on that unique hill that is privy to me and those who read this article.

And the review title they choose for this work is making fun of heart attacks. Was that not riveting enough for you, LaSalle. What did this poor movie need to do to earn your love? And I could have spend hundreds of words reviewing LaSalle here, but I won’t. They loved the movie Bros, so maybe they are okay. It doesn’t really matter. (Jots some notes down for later.)

Clerks III, as you may have guessed or already knew, is about heart attacks. Kevin Smith had a near death experience in 2018 that prompted him to go vegan, lose weight, and take care of himself. He also described the experience as the thing that gave him the spine to make Clerks III. This movie isn’t just about heart attacks, it is the direct result of one. And while I don’t know for sure the reasons, I believe it is because this movie was for Smith and the people who love the work he has created.

And while his work has always had that element to it, this one was the Magnolia of that effort. (Great call back Faye!) I don’t think Clerks III is a film that you can totally enjoy or is even enjoyable without a lot of knowledge on the history of the Clerks universe in general and Kevin Smith specifically. When I finished this movie, I didn’t feel like I had watched a good movie. I felt like I had finished the book at two in the morning, set it down on my nightstand, and just spent the next thirty minutes staring into the ceiling as my brain talked to itself in a private and primal language.

It felt heavy and important, deeply personal, reflective, and human. It felt like the swan song to a life and legacy that showed the totality of mastery, growth, maturity, and age of an artist. So, when I finished it, I didn’t think about the movie in the context of if I liked it or not. That kind of stopped mattering. I didn’t think about it as something I loved or hated. I thought about it as something I experienced and it felt so raw.

I think people sit down for Smith movies because they expect a cheeky movie, with sass, humor, and sincerity. Where you touch on real topics, but typically in a safe way. With a tone of nudge nudge wink wink. That for every moment you have emotions and tears welling up inside of you, you know there will be a joke waiting to bring you back to light heartedness.

And this movie didn’t have that. And it was so difficult to understand this movie as fiction, because the lines it blurs makes them nearly inseparable. And I don’t mean the characters in this movie are real and that’s the hard part. I mean, that this movie is functionally an autobiography of Smith.

Essentially the character Randal has a heart attack and after he survives it, he wants to make a movie about his life as a clerk. What they end up making is effectively the original Clerks movie. With the scenes they shoot being one for one reshoots of that movie. Except, instead of being the young 20 to 30 somethings who originally were in it, we see these characters as pushing fifty. We see the characters aged.

And like with what I talked about in Jay and Silent Bob the Remake, the implicit message here is that people do grow old and that isn’t a bad thing. So much of life right now is this belief that life is over when you’re twenty five. That if you’re not a famous TikTok star by then, what are you even doing? And staying consistent with most of his work, the audience loves this.

I think the bad take for this movie about making the original Clerks is that Smith is just trying to cash in on old fame. Or that he has no original ideas left. And they really miss why this movie happened or the Jay and Silent Bob the Reboot. The main point I’m exploring in this article is looking at what drives an artist to create. And I think even thinking about Smith as an artist for a few seconds would disprove those notions as operating conditions.

Smith never really set out to make ||Ḧ̵̡͖̟̻̟͇̞̲̬̠̰̱͓̝̙̦͎́̎́̔ͅ||-̼word movies, he started as a film guy because he realized he could just shoot movies in his home town and didn’t need a film studio. He shot movies of his life, his family, and his friends. He created worlds he wanted to see and interact with.

During the ending credits of Clerks III, he says he wanted everyone to see the movie like he did. He said he has always seen the movie in color, because that was his story. The Quick Stop convenience store wasn’t a movie set or prop to him, even if it was to so many viewers.

Randal set out to make the movie within the movie because he wanted to say something before he died. I think what lit the fire for Smith was the same thing. He wants to go back and revisit his first movie in his own way. He wanted to explore it again, to reflect on himself, and see what he was capable of doing.

The funny thing is that looking back on the movie right now, the scene that sticks out to me is one without direct dialogue. It is one where Dante, the main character of the original Clerks and titular Clerk is looking at his friend Randal directing the movie. And the expression is just this love at seeing someone close to you coming into their own.

This movie deals with mortality pretty directly. It deals with characters reflecting on their life, choices, and regrets. It asks what more there is to life and the choices we have so long as we’re alive. It’s also directly looking at the behind the scenes filming of the original. It makes a ton of jokes about the life of these fictional characters as they do age and breath.

And just like I’ve already described with the Jay and Silent Bob the Remake, we see these characters aged. And the really interesting thing about this movie is that when we watch it, we feel nostalgic for the original Clerks. When they watch it, they feel nostalgic for their life.

And when we think of nostalgia, we often think about the rosey lens in which we view and remember works of art. But we rarely take that lens into the same way we romanticized our life. Just how long will we hold onto memories that only live on in ourselves? In this movie, Dante has never gotten over losing his wife to a car accident in 2006. His nostalgia for his wife and the family he never had prevented him from moving on and finding something else. It prevented him from continuing to write new chapters in his life.

And do we romantize our high school life? College? Young adult career? The attractive woman and three months of heavy sex? That man who held you just perfectly? Every missed opportunity? A future you dream about, but never act on?

When this movie looks at nostalgia, it isn’t doing it like a Star Wars remake or a dozen other intellectual properties force fed back to us. It is honestly examining our relationship to it and what we carry with our age in meaningful ways.

I think the original fans of Smith were in their twenties and thirties. I think they are largely the same age as the characters in these movies. I’m a whole generation younger, so I’m not seeing my life in these characters, but I’m seeing a future. And it is extremely refreshing to see characters age and be relevant. And this movie is just the opposite of a nostalgia trap in every way you can imagine.

The movie ends with Dante dying. He was originally slated to die in the original and you can find that ending within the deleted scenes. His third act conclusion was death on a day he wasn’t even supposed to be there for. And while that was scrapped, in the final third act of the third movie his borrowed time is up.

And I don’t like that ending…but it’s important.

I don’t like stories where people die because of the plot. Where it’s the emotional weight needed for the scene or justify some action within the narration. But Dante didn’t die for the plot. While I can’t say for sure, I think Smith thought a lot about his possible death. And while he lived, I’m sure he fixated on what his death would be and the story he’s told so far. Dante was him dying. It was the exploration of his story closing.

As we get older, we have that much less of a guarantee anyone will be around anymore. And you will lose people in your life. It can obviously happen to anyone at any time, but on a long enough timeline we’re all dust. And if you live to seventy, eight, or ninety — you may get to the point where you’re the last one alive. And as you age you have to learn to cope with that. To find new friends, new meaning, and new purpose as your relationship structures change. And it’s hard. It is so difficult to experience that trauma and isolation then continue carrying on. I still vividly remember my great grandpa breaking down in sobs in front of my great grandma’s grave. I had never before seen such raw emotion, loss, or grief nor have I seen it ever again.

And I don’t like the ending in Clerks III, because it’s hard. I would have loved a nice bow to it. Everyone is fine and the story carries on. Clerks IV: A New Hope. But this movie wasn’t concerned with being a franchise. It didn’t care about cashing in. It was a deeply personal movie with a very clear message to say and it said it.

And while I’ve largely explored the serious tones of Smith’s work here, I want to say the subtle and humorous tones are on point as well. I just feel like everyone can pretty easily pick up on a weed and fart jokes. I maybe don’t need to get into those elements as much.

One thing I do want to say is that I didn’t expect these movies to be as good as they were. I was expecting more of the same and was surprised to see Smith on an entirely new level. I wanted to explore why I felt that was, because I didn’t see a big deep dive into these works on the positive or negative. I saw people talking about it being honest and powerful, but not exactly why. And I didn’t see many folks talking about the general message of aging and that means within these movies with the same cast. And I think more than anything, we see a T̶̲̄ï̸̠k̵̠̾t̵̩̊ö̶͉k̸̞̄i̸̭̇z̴̫̆á̵̻t̸͝ͅi̸̺̐o̵̕͜n̵͐ ̩of media consumption where writers only get a 1000 words or less to say anything of meaning. And that just is not enough to really delve meaningfully into complex work.

I would say before engaging with this, I was a fan of Smith, because I just felt like I vibed with that cat. Now I feel like he is an artist who has made things worth talking about and examining. He has contributed something of real meaning and a raw, powerful reflection of what it is to be human. I think a lot of his early work was fun, but I see it as so much more sophisticated now. And his direction and art didn’t evolve into the thing that wins awards, in fact nobody has nominated him for shit in 15 years. They did something else. They evolved into a mastercraft of telling the stories Smith wanted to tell.

Critics pine on if fans will still follow him after his last two movies. If anything I’ve never been more excited to hear what else he has to say.

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Faye Seidler

I write essays on literature, pop culture, and video games. I mostly deconstruct and do comparative analysis on many topics in both a serious and goofy way.