On the very finish of the unlucky biographical doc “Clerk,” self-exiled slacker king and New Jersey-based filmmaker Kevin Smith paraphrases Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wish.” In that tune, The Boss sings: “And if it is a humorous outdated world, ma, the place a little bit boy’s needs come true/effectively, I acquired just a few in my pocket and a particular one only for you.” In this documentary, Silent Bob tears up when he says his artistic successes are an “a little bit boy’s want coming true over and time and again. “It should not have occurred,” Smith persists, “and it fing did, and, like, cracked open the fing universe.”
There are loads to unpack there, particularly given that almost all of “Clerk” makes use of footage from Smith’s movies and interviews with Smith’s mom Grace—and his brother Donald, his daughter Harley Quinn, his spouse Jennifer, and his many collaborators—to verify one thing that his followers, the film’s preferred (and doubtless solely) viewers, already really feel: the world is a greater place for having Kevin Smith in it. In all probability, however, you received’t consider that based mostly on the proof introduced in “Clerk.”
“Clerk” largely follows Smith’s profession as a filmmaker, although it additionally continues lengthy sufficient to shout-out his spoken phrase/stand-up comedy performances, his podcasts, his film merchandise, and his IMDb speak presently. Everything after Smith’s films, which even he admits are technically tough sledding, serves to verify Smith’s self-image as a really fortunate man who’s now all about utilizing his artwork to be himself, no matter meaning.
Smith and his friends guardedly (or perhaps half-heartedly) recommend that he’s already wrestled with and perhaps even outgrown the expectations that have been foisted upon him by the vital “intelligentsia” that boosted “Clerks,” his 1994 breakthrough indie comedy. Creator and Smith champion John Pierson dismisses dangerous opinions of “Mallrats,” Smith’s pandering, the loosey-goosey follow-up to “Clerks,” for being written by “critics who made him” who have been “feeling betrayed.” That’s additionally in all probability true, however what about everybody else who didn’t and doubtless nonetheless don’t care that a lot about Smith and his chummy cult of character?
Smith’s well-known ‘splainin’ arms work overtime as he struggles to articulate why his artistic successes, like “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy,” simply as a lot to him as his field workplace duds, like “Jersey Woman” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” Every venture informs the following and likewise expands Smith’s understanding of what works and what doesn’t, although it’s usually laborious to inform why that issues past dutiful, self-serving interviews together with his grateful mates and colleagues.
Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams thank Smith in “Clerk” for giving them artistic autonomy and alternative on “Chasing Amy.” However, these visually interchangeable testimonials aren’t as endearing as scenes the place Smith lavishes reward on his common co-star and on-screen wingman Jason Mewes, who blushes and marvels silently when Smith insists that he out-shone “skilled comedians” in “Dogma,” Smith’s endearingly infantile 1999 apocalypse comedy.
Sadly, many of the speaking head interviews in “Clerk” solely verify Smith’s excessive self-regard. There’s some reality to grandiose claims made by guys like former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief and ex-Daredevil co-writer Joe Quesada, who says that Smith not solely “saved my profession, however, contributed to the saving of comics.” However even for those who had sufficient time to test Quesada’s psychological math (and regulate for appreciable inflation): who cares about these things past the uninitiated? Who however Smith’s followers will wish to see the late comics figurehead Stan Lee’s commerce compliments with Smith, not to mention nod together with magician Penn Jillette when he praises Smith for being “essential to the tradition.” Which tradition and essential how?
Smith’s halting commentary is usually essentially the most irritating factor of “Clerk” given how emotionally charged, however basically non-introspective he tends to be. He claims to have been unaware of former patron Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and rapidly mentions his already well-publicized dedication of all post-#MeToo Miramax royalties to feminine filmmakers. A documentary that expanded on that (or saved after Smith extra usually) might have been fascinating, however, “Clerk” usually stays inside Smith’s slip of a consolation zone. So as a substitute for self-criticism or simply plain self-assessment, we largely get a whole lot of self-regard and self-pity, like when Smith shrugs that “Jersey Woman” bombed as a result of it was completely different than his earlier movies (“How do you promote that?”).
Watching Smith’s buddies pay him heartfelt tribute is one factor, however, that doesn’t make spending a lot of time (115 minutes???) together with his fawning co-conspirators really feel a lot much less oppressive. Once more, there’s one thing to testimonials from guys like “Fatman on Batman” podcast co-host Marc Bernardin, who hails Smith for pushing his predominantly white fanbase to make room for Marc Bernard, an African-American comics fan. However, every part in “Clerk” finally leads again to Smith, who solely explains a lot about Smith’s cracked universe, regardless of how forcefully or continuously it erupts.