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VOD Review: Clerk.

January 31, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by Malcolm Ingram, Clerk. is an entertaining documentary that looks at the career of filmmaker Kevin Smith, offering a complete portrait of him as director, podcaster and comic book fan.

Through interviews with a number of people in Smith’s inner circle, the film takes us through the ups and downs of the New Jersey native and Vancouver Film School dropout’s filmmaking career and personal life.

This includes all of the highlights and low points, starting with the early success that he found with his breakout film Clerks in 1994, a low-budget movie set at the convenience store where he worked that was made for $27,000. It made him a darling of the indie film circuit, but Smith struggled to replicate this success with the commercial flop Mallrats, before rebounding with Chasing Amy.

Smith’s career has continued in this vein of wild swings between projects for the past nearly thirty years, which he openly talks about in the film. He attracted good reviews but courted major controversy for his religious satire Dogma in 1999, followed it up with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, before the infamous Ben Affleck bomb Jersey Girl gave way to the safe bet of Clerks II in 2006. This cycle would continue with the financial flop Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which led him to turn to self-distribution for his scrappy horror film Red State. All the while Smith has built up the View Askewniverse between films, and attracted a legion of loyal fans.

While Clerk. very much follows the standard “bio-doc” formula, presenting these events in simple chronological order, Ingram’s film also has a bit of a hangout movie feel to it at times, as a litany of Smith’s close collaborators, family members and admirers pop up throughout to share stories and talk about getting to work with him. It’s a laid-back approach that reflects the ethos of Smith’s own films and the guiding philosophy of his life. Among the subjects are his friend and co-star Jason Mewes (the Jay to his Silent Bob), longtime producer Scott Mosier, and Betty Aberlin, the former Mister Rogers star who developed a surprising bond with Smith and has appeared in several of his films.

We also get appearances from movie stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, as well as fellow filmmakers Richard Linklater, whose debut film Slacker inspired Smith to make Clerks, and Jason Reitman, who was in turn inspired by Clerks to pursue making indie films. The personal portrait of Smith afforded to us in Clerk. is rounded out through interviews with his mother Grace, brother Donald, wife Jennifer and young adult daughter Harley Quinn.

Throughout the film, Smith reminisces about how his father used to take him to the movies in the afternoon, and reflects on how fortunate he has been in his life. Thanks to the lucky break of Clerks, he has been able to make a career out of simply doing what he loves, from setting up an online space to chat with fans in the early days of the internet, selling merchandise, and talking about the pop culture that he loves on podcasts and at comic conventions.

For the Smith skeptics out there, Clerk. will likely be too much of a lovefest to feel substantial. But if you have any admiration for Smith’s films, or for Smith as a person, then Ingram’s film functions as a very enjoyable overview of his career, that in the end becomes surprisingly touching as well.

Clerk. will be released on Digital and VOD platforms on February 1st. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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