A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Hardly anybody ever works in the movies, except at jobs like cops, robbers, drug dealers and space captains. One of the many charms of Kevin Smith's "Clerks" is that it clocks a full day on the job. Its hero, Dante Hicks, is a clerk in a convenience store, and his friend Randal works next door in the video store. Both stores are in a strip mall in Asbury Park, N.J. - marginal operations with ill-paid and disenchanted employees.
The movie has the attitude of a gas station attendant who tells you to check your own oil. It's grungy and unkempt, and Dante and Randal look like they have been nourished from birth on beef jerky and Cheetos. They are tired and bored, underpaid and unlucky in love, and their encounters with customers feel like a series of psychological tests.
Dante, played by Brian O'Halloran on a perfect note of defensive detachment, has that gift for getting through a bad job by running his private life at the same time. He's 22, a college dropout, dating the talkative Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), and is alarmed to read in the paper that his former girlfriend, Caitlin, is engaged to an "Asian studies major." Meanwhile, his life is going nowhere, and he has had to cancel his hockey game to work on his day off.
His day begins at dawn. He sleeps in his clothes closet. He drinks his coffee out of the lid of the cookie jar. When the store's steel shutters won't roll up, he uses shoe polish to write a big sign: I ASSURE YOU WE ARE OPEN. He gets in desultory conversations with customers who are opposed to cigarettes, or looking for porno mags, or claim the vacant-eyed guy leaning against the building is a heavy metal star from Russia.