In Clerks 2, Director Kevin Smith resumed the lives of two convenience store workers from his 1994 film Clerks. SmithÂ’s movies traditionally appear vulgar and devoid of cinematic integrity upon first glimpse.
In Clerks 2, Director Kevin Smith resumed the lives of two convenience store workers from his 1994 film Clerks. Smith’s movies traditionally appear vulgar and devoid of cinematic integrity upon first glimpse. On closer inspection the viewer can derive complex character development and thematic concepts worthy of much more respect than is given by critics.
The sequel opens with a blaze. The Quickstop is burnt nearly to the grown. The Quickstop was a symbol of security for the main characters. Dante and Randal had worked there for over a decade. This is a humbling experience. Fire is one of the elements of life that can become uncontrollable by humans. Vulnerability to fire has been both a gift and a hazard to humanity. The camera zooms out and the black and white picture gains color.
When Randal asks Dante if he misses the Quickstop, Dante responds by saying that “the Lord…smited that hellhole”. The camerawork is clear to show that Randal misses his old line of work, and what it represented. The guys are never outright with their feelings. They prefer to hide their emotions through clever subject change or shift of topics.
The two stars of the film are now thirty-three years old, and still meet the world with a high school attitude. They go through life feeling short-handed by life. The dialogue between the two consists of constant complaints and embitterment about their situations. What started as part time jobs turned into a decade of service. The money is bad, the opportunity for advancement is grim, and the work is boring. Dante and Randal live a life of repetition and realize the nature of their work. The idea of being in such labor trickles into their sense of self-worth. Randal never considered advancing his life. He enjoys the days spent sitting back, watching movies, and annoying customers that came with being a clerk at the convenience store. Since its close Dante and Randal had been forcved out of their routine to take a look at their situation in life. Neither one really enjoyed what they found.
With the fall of the convenience store, employment opportunities bring the boys to the world of food service. The two made this horizontal career change without much thought of advancing in life. Community college courses were dropped and soon forgotten once the everyday work was resumed. On a ride to work the song “Nothing but Flowers” by the Talking Heads is being played in the background. The movie begins with Dante’s last day before leaving to Florida with his fiancée Emma.
Outside of the restaurant the clerks are followed by the drug dealing duo of Jay and Silent Bob. The sequel seems to have a Christian undertone. Jay and Silent Bob now carry Bibles and spread the word along with their vices. Jay is a brash, obscene, and unpolished guy. He is all about satisfying his immediate urges. He has no qualms about his particular line of work and seems to enjoy the lifestyle.
Dante has always had a difficult time making decisions in regard to his life. In the first Clerks Dante is caught between an ex high school fling and a woman who loves him and wants him return to school and make a better life for himself. In the first film he ends up getting dumped by his girlfriend Veronica for talking to the ex behind her back. In Clerks II Dante again finds himself in a love triangle. Dante’s masculinity is easily overridden by his fiancée Emma who has no problem making all of Dante’s decisions for him. He has always been confused and controlled by the women in his life.
Emma comes from a wealthy background that is offering Dante a ticket out of New Jersey to a “better life” in Florida with a new house and job. This passive personality will again lead to the climax of the movie later on. While Randal tries not to let it rattle him, the pending absence of his best friend shows through his actions. The two had been side by side for their whole lives.
Once the workday begins it is time for the men to earn their keep, sort of. Dante begins the duties of a food preparer. He accepts his position and does his best to carry out his responsibilities. Randal does as little work as possible while doling out tasks, insults , and innuendo. It is certainly appealing to teens to have adults of this capacity with the freedom to act how they wish with limited consequences. Randal takes any chance to improve his self-esteem, including criticizing a handicapped man on his blog on able-bodied individuals. No one is exempt from his wrathful wordplay and wit. He puts people down to keep his ego inflated enough to continue on.
Never admitting that one is wrong is a common theme of masculinity. After posting a commentary on the website Randal compares the blogger to Anne Frank. Dante corrects him saying that Randal is trying to refer to Helen Keller and her handicap. Randal responds by saying that he supposes the blogger is more like Anne Frank because of the diary, and Dante walks off annoyed. There has not been an instance in either of Kevin Smith’s films where Randal admitted being wrong about anything.
Elias is the first character of importance in Kevin Smith’s movies that does not fit in. He is certainly not a masculine figure in the film. His mom kisses him when he is dropped off at work. At nineteen he has no interest in alcohol, sex, or vulgarity. He doesn’t stand up for himself and can barely manage to flip burgers. He is a soft-spoken, bible camp attending, Lord of the Rings loving nerd. Elias carries a Christian influence throughout the film. Randal and Elias butt heads continuously through the film. Randal insists on bullying the weak and Elias is no exception. Survival of the fittest is evident when Randal pushes off his tasks, criticisms, and anxiety onto the nineteen year old transformers fan. There is a sharp contrast in defining a youthful male character that Elias is at nineteen versus Dante and Randall when they were in the first film at age twenty-three.
Also new to the fray is restaurant manager Becky. Becky serves the role of a female character that fits in as just one of the guys. Becky serves as the character encouraging Dante to do what he thinks is best, while subconsciously holding feelings of her own. In reference to his fiancée Emma, Becky says that “she’ll make all your decisions for you”. Later in the film she sits down and point blank asks him if there’s anything nerve-racking that would give him second thoughts about getting married. Dante’s response is even more surprising than the prompt. He fears dancing at his reception. After a dance lesson on the roof Becky informs Dante that she is pregnant with his child.
Dante clearly has feelings for Becky. He makes an odd habit reappear by applying her black nail polish for her, as he did in the first film. This is another sign that Dante is not a typical male character. He has effeminate qualities about him and is more outwardly sensitive than his counterpart Randal. Dante is repeatedly referred to as “an ugly chud”, yet somehow his charm shines through his lack of initiative to make something out of his life. It had always been made clear that Dante has a problem with change, and leaving home had never been a task that seemed accomplishable.
New Jersey represents home for the characters of this, and all of Kevin Smith’s films. All are based in suburbs of New Jersey. Clear meaning is put into the value of comfort in one’s hometown. A sense of predictability and territoriality is present in Randal and Dante’s outlook. Constant reflecting and thoughts of better days consume the minds of the two clerks. Thoughts back to teenage years represent a time when the world seemed full of opportunities.
One day a former high school classmate turned multi-millionaire comes walking through the doors of the restaurant and bashes the clerks for wasting their lives. The customer throws out a series of callous comments before leaving without any food saying that “some things never change”. Clearly the things that were said upset Randal enough that he stormed out of the store demanding Dante’s car keys.
The two friends then traveled to a nearby amusement park to ride the bumper cars. The camera angles and “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” playing in the background implies some kind of deeper meaning than just something to do for fun. Again a song breaks the pace of the normal scheme of things to underscore the importance of the go-karts. In the car ride back Randal reflects that riding the go-karts centers him, and remind him of a better time in his life, like when the world was still in front of him. He says, “Sometimes I get the feeling the world left us behind a long time ago”. These are unusually deep words for a usually tough character Randal. The go-karts clearly bring a sense of childhood and innocence back to Randal’s consciousness.
The film continues on to Dante’s going away party where Randal had been courteous enough to order a donkey show performance in the lobby of the restaurant. Emma shows up to find Dante making out with his boss, and again Dante is caught getting beat up by a woman in his life. The cops show up shortly after and the remaining people at the party are arrested.
The jail cell becomes the scene of the movie’s resolution. Often times when men will not resort to reason until they feel trapped into doing so. The potential absence of best friend Dante has left Randal disoriented and lost. The stage was set for the most sentimental scene in the movie. Randal unloads all of his anguish that Dante is leaving him. His best and only true friend who he has spent his entire life with is leaving. Randal is scared to make friends at his age. He sees Dante as his counterbalance. For someone like Randal to open up with his feelings emphasizes the nature of the situation.
After a continued argument Dante challenges Randal to say what kind of a plan he has for himself since all he is doing is criticizing Dante’s life. Both men attack each other verbally instead of accepting any blame. After a shoving and shouting match the two fall silent. Jay breaks the silence with “Would you two just get it over with already”. It is a time in the film to drop the strong front and fall to emotion. Randal must come out and say the things he has dreaded. He reduces himself to begging. Randal admits he needs Dante. He tells Dante that if he could he would by the Quickstop and reopen it himself. Dante reminds him they don’t have that kind of money.
Now re-enter the drug dealers. Jay and Silent Bob have enough money to lend to the clerks, as long as they can hang out in front of the store like the old days. Randal and Dante take out a loan and reopen the stores. They work together to restore it to a better shape than it originally stood.
Dante had made a choice to stick with his responsibilities and his future child. He proposes to Becky and she accepts. He stops trying to run to an illusion of what a better life should look like. By ignoring what is expected of him he resists outside influences. He asserts his manhood by doing what he thins is best in the end. Randal’s idea to reopen the store showed that he could do something to improve his situation. The two men finally demonstrated signs of growing up.
The movie ends with the two men inside the reopened store behind the counter just like old times. A customer passes buying a pack of cigarettes. Jay and Silent Bob re-establish their standing grounds outside the video store. Dante asks Randal, “Do you feel that?”, “This is the first day of the rest of our lives”. After a nod from Randal the camera zooms out showing the famous store that is once again home for the clerks. The camera fades to black and white, and the movie ends.
This film exemplifies what it is like for thousands of men like Randal that are so content in their situations that they fail to progress their standing in life. Comfort can be a negative when it lulls people into neutrality. Especially when it dissatisfies the person to think that they can not achieve anything better than what they have. Dante becomes a man in the film and stops looking for ways to pity himself. This film is an excellent depiction of a teenage attitude dragged out later in life, and how this outlook complicates life. Kevin Smith tells us how to move on after a life of boyhood into a fuller perspective of being a man.