Clerks III Review: The Subtle Beauty of Ending on the Down Note

My review of Kevin Smith’s return to the Quick Stop with a grounded story about the big lives of ‘little people.’

Joshua M. Patton

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Image via Lionsgate

When director and podcaster Kevin Smith revealed his plans to bring Clerks III to the screen, he said he did it because he wanted to reward the characters who made his life so rewarding. This motivation promises a very different movie than we actually get. Which is to say, the film is not a series of great-but-funny things happening to the ol’ Quick Stop gang. Instead, this movie examines mortality in a way one doesn’t expect in a film with “Clerks” in the title. This film is rewarding for the characters and the audience. Yet, unlike Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, this is not a film where every character gets their happy ending. In what some believe to be the hallmark of a truly great movie, Clerks III ends on something of a down note.

The very end of Clerks III actually reminds me a bit of the final sequence in The Wire. It’s both an ending, a new beginning, and symbolic of an ongoing cycle hidden in plain sight in American life. Unlike The Wire, however, Clerks III’s cycle is not one of violence, pain, and a futile drug war that only serves to sustain itself. Even though the director’s postscript to the movie promises at least one really happy ending, the cycle that repeats at the end of this story is simply one of life going on. People stepping into roles, both professionally and personally, that others occupied before them, and others will occupy when they are gone. The subtle message of Clerks III is that a movie is not great because of the filmmaker, but rather because of the subject matter that inspires it. The movie that Randal makes is not the greatest movie Dante ever saw because Randal was great at the job. It was because he, like so many Americans in “menial” jobs, got to see his life portrayed like it was something important, something worth seeing.

Clerks III highlights Smith’s Growth as an Artist

Clerks III is a movie that is funny and heartfelt in equal measure. The trailer for the film laid the premise out almost as a warning to viewers and critics who think Smith — one of the original self-referential…

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Joshua M. Patton

Entertainment, culture, politics, essays & lots of Star Wars. Bylines: Comic Years, CBR. Like my work? Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/O5O0GR