SXSW 2021: Clerk (2021) Review

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From a film about a guy who was “not even supposed to be here today”, 27 years later Kevin Smith is, for better or worse, still here. Clerk is a documentary that takes a Quick Stop down memory lane.

Malcolm Ingram’s film is a comprehensive look at the New Jersey filmmaker’s career. From Clerks breaking out at Sundance and the creation of the vast View Askew universe and empire (merchandise, podcasts, etc). All the way to his brush with death with a massive heart attack. A moment that would cause him to change the way he lived his life… and make Jay & Silent Bob Reboot so Yoga Hosers was not the last film he ever made!

There is a danger with this type of documentary that it can become a one-sided self-congratulatory circle jerk. The key difference here? Kevin Smith.

The filmmaker and professional raconteur is not only an irrepressible force of energy when it comes to talking about himself, his movies, other people’s movies, comic books, pop culture etc. He is also refreshingly, hilariously (and often brutally) honest about the highs and many lows of his career.

For every critically revered film like Clerks and Chasing Amy, there were critical and commercial failures like Jersey Girl and Zack & Miri Make A Porno. It was at this point, and apparently being introduced to pot by Seth Rogen, that Smith’s career would branch out into ever increasingly challenging (and often alienating) films like Red State and Tusk.

Smith’s films have never been for everyone. He admits as much and reflects on his failures as being the product of trying to be someone else. For example trying to go mainstream with more traditional studio narrative like Jersey Girl or Cop Out. He also addresses the tricky topic of owing a lot of his early success to being financed by Weinstein. One that he acknowledges and seeks to attone for by donating royalties from his Miramax films to women’s charaties.

Smith is at his best when connecting with his fans. Whether it is through online forums, podcasts, speaking events or making crude dick jokes via Jay and Silent Bob. He has made an indelible impact on pop culture during his long career, with his films still being quoted and referenced today. NB: Still haven’t found that sailboat though.

Clerk is unlikely to change anyone’s opinion on his films. However it would be near impossible not to come away from the movie without being charmed by the man himself and his passion for what he does. A sentiment echoed by his many colleagues and fans.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Director: Malcolm Ingram
Stars: Kevin Smith
Runtime: 116 minutes
Country: USA

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