Let me start by upfront by saying I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith! Sometime in college I accidentally discovered his Smodcast podcast and found him to be funny, insightful, and an overall super geek. A customary Google search later, I discovered he was a filmmaker with an extensive resume who was a part of the indie boom of the 90s. There was no streaming, so either through Netflix DVD rentals (remember that?), or just flat out buying the DVDs of his movies, I got hooked and became a Kevin Smith fan. I ran through his entire library rather quickly and fell in love with his “Jersey films.” Now not all of his films are my cup of tea (looking at you Cop Out, Tusk, and Yoga Hosers), but overall, his films are fun, silly, and almost all of them have heart. Hell, I still listen to/watch his Fatman on Batman/Fatman Beyond podcast whenever a new episode drops.
So, when I learned that his friend/protégé Malcolm Ingram was making a documentary about his life and career, I was more than interested in watching Clerk and learn a little bit more about the writer/director/podcaster/public speaker/whatever other hat he wears nowadays.
Clerk examines the life of Kevin Smith from him leaving his smalltown Jersey suburb of Highlands in search of going to film school after seeing Richard Linklater’s (who was interviewed in Clerk among countless others) comedy Slacker and deciding THAT’S what he wanted to do with his life. He ended up dropping out of film school, but learned enough to pursue his dreams and he ended up making the Sundance darling Clerks and establishing himself as an upcoming filmmaker. The documentary covers pretty much every facet of his life up until 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot film, so it explores thirteen of his fifteen films as well as every other part of his life, including him being a comic book writer (Joe Quesada and Stan Lee both say he helped Marvel out when they were going almost bankrupt with his writing creativity for Daredevil and other comics), public speaker, podcaster, and even his near-fatal heart attack and life-changing weight loss.
Now if you’re a Kevin Smith superfan fan (which most people who would watch this documentary presumably already are) Clerk doesn’t give you too many new details you don’t already know. After all, through Smith’s public speaking events, podcasts, and social media he has already personally shared in great detail already about his life and career. His friend Scott Mosier even says when he heard about Smith having his “widowmaker” heart attack, he first checked Instagram instead of calling Smith because that would be the easiest way to know Smith’s status. That doesn’t mean that Clerk isn’t a great documentary. Hearing from Smith, friends Jason Mewes (the Jay of “Jay and Silent Bob”), his wife, daughter, producer Scott Mosier, Marc Bernardin, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and countless others discussing their relationships with Smith provides a little me insight into him from the people he’s most connected to and helps the audience learn a little bit about him and what makes him tick, his successes, and his failures like Mallrats, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and Yoga Hosers. Smith even recalls his heart attack and after being told it was near-fatal he tells the doctor “I can’t die with Yoga Hosers being my last film” jokingly.
Clerk is a celebration of Smith, so don’t expect to learn about any “dark side” of Smith, because it really doesn’t seem there is one, he’s genuinely a nice person who just likes to “have fun making movies with his friends.” It celebrates the “brand” of Kevin Smith not just as a person, but as an institution who simply just wants to entertain people in any way he possibly can. Clerk also shows the impact that Smith had on entertainment, from his first film Clerks, to his endlessly hiring his friends and people he meets along the way to be a part of his business and even influencing other filmmakers who grew up watching his films. If you are a fan of Kevin Smith, Clerk is worth a watch as it’s a love letter to the filmmaker.
Clerk is currently available on Blu-Ray (exclusively at Mercantile Instinct) and VOD.