Saturday, July 22, 2006

Clerks II: True love in New Jersey

No, not the romantic kind. The kind between buddy and buddy, between Randall and Dante, the clerks, played by Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran, who are back in slightly more evolved form (well, sort of) in Clerks II.

Randall still says all the outrageous and offensive things that Dante would never say, and he has some real doozies in this sequel, particularly a running joke in which he confuses two famous women in history. Dante expresses outrage, and always takes the moral high road. He's the reliable one. But he's also the one who gives in and goes along before Randall does, and in this film, Randall is there to save his pal at the very last minute. Rosario Dawson more than holds her own as a woman who's another buddy to Dante--no, not the romantic kind, but maybe just the kind he needs.

A go-cart scene to the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" (used in the soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the ur-buddy movie) lampoons the guy-bonding genre. But when push comes to shove--after the donkey that so offended the critic Joel Siegel, who ought to think twice before his next fit of high dudgeon--Randall comes through for his friend, in as he would say, "a totally heterosexual way."

In between, there is raunch and smartass talk galore, much of it in New Jersey dialect. New Jersey is my native state (I almost wrote "land,") and I have long held that "fuckin' nuts," along with the related two-word phrase "waddya, nuts?" is exclusive to the Garden State. As is the word "chud." (Look up the film.) Kevin Smith's characters speak in a way that's unique to his films: each always seems to be explaining his or her convoluted logic without really understanding it. And they use what to the rest of us might seem like vocabulary words: "imperative" (Dante), "nomenclature" (Randall), and "chaos incarnate" (Dante talking about Randall).

Not to go on too long about my native state, but this film sums up the Jersey ethos: feistiness, determination, creative use of bad language, and the sense that time is passing and maybe it's better elsewhere (not for nothing did someone propose making "Born to Run" the state song). Anderson and O'Halloran, both Jersey natives, embody the what-the-hell spirit that every Jerseyan has. And for someone who comes from across the river, namely NYC, Rosario Dawson does a damn good impression of a (I shudder to use the hackneyed phrase) Jersey girl.

Many traditional buddy pictures are also road pictures; think Butch Cassidy or Easy Rider. These buddies don't go anywhere, much. And I love them all the more for it. Clerks II could easily offend the self-righteous. But the film is not for them....and chances are they won't see it.

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