Review: 'Clerk.' is a Love Letter to the Kevin Smith Fandom

by Derek Deskins

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 23, 2021

'Clerk.'
'Clerk.'  (Source:10/91 Pictures)

The independent films of the '90s are the base upon which my love for movies rises. As a child of the '90s, they were the movies that I heard about but was never allowed to see. So by the time the '00s rolled around, they were all that I wanted. I was in cinematic bliss, hopping from Tarantino to PTA to Linklater to Soderbergh, and then I stumbled into Kevin Smith. Let me tell you, there was always something different about Kevin Smith.

There is a certain pedigree of filmmaker that gets celebrated and lionized by film fans, and it's most often those of the artistic variety — the type of filmmaker that you can call an auteur, allowing the inherent pretension to be part of the statement. But Kevin Smith wasn't part of that fold. Where those other filmmakers felt like behemoths, almost inhuman in their artistic stature, Smith was closer. He was your friend in film. That's what makes him so beloved.

Malcolm Ingram's "Clerk." takes a look back at Smith's career as a filmmaker, retracing the steps to see how this Quick Stop clerk managed to find his way out from behind the counter and into the homes of many a weirdo film buff.

Much of the appeal of the modern-day Kevin Smith is his rampant accessibility. Smith is the type of celebrity that seems just as enamored with his status as you. He celebrates, and has always celebrated, his fans with a passion that is largely unmatched in the industry. So it feels appropriate that Smith is the primary conveyor of information in the documentary on his career.

He is more than happy to skip down memory lane and recount any and all stories that you have the time to listen to. The difficulty is that any Smith faithful has likely followed the man closely throughout his career, graduating from his films to his "Evening With" Q&A specials until eventually landing on his massive podcast network. He doesn't have secrets, because he's found a way to make a career out of sharing them all. It's a move that is both endearing and cripples any documentary with him as a subject.

Ingram, a longtime Smith friend and collaborator, has an easy rapport with Smith, and lends the film a feeling of two friends chatting. However, that same friendship limits the documentary, staying focused on the surface and rarely delving into the scarier and more uncomfortable aspects of his life. Smith's questioning of his career following the two pronged failure of "Zac and Miri Make a Porno" and "Cop Out" is glossed over, as is his relationship with his father and the effect of his passing on his life and parenting. His support of Jason Mewes through Mewes' battles with addiction and the strain that placed on their friendship is only a whisper. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as "Clerk." instead serves as something of a career retrospective rather than exploration of the person; however, it does leave you aching for a bit more insight.

The film's greatest accomplishment is how well it captures the strength of Kevin Smith's heart. This is a man that is appreciative for all that he gets to do, and seems to go out of his way whenever possible to voice that appreciation. There is a passion and love that he has not for his films, but for the people and memories that those films have brought.

For the Kevin Smith ignorant, "Clerk." will be merely something that they scroll past when trying to find something to watch. But for the Kevin Smith faithful, this is a love letter to their devotion. As a documentary, it is straight down the middle, neither awful nor exceptional, but as a piece of the Kevin Smith milieu, it captures a transportive essence of Smith that warms you from the inside out.


"Clerk." is available digitally November 23.