Monday night, we showed “Clerks II” to an audience for the second time. It really couldn’t have gone better than it did: laughter in all the right places, gut-punched silence in others. So delighted to know that the flick works for more people than just me.
The two highlights of the night…
1) Bob Weinstein (who hadn’t seen the flick before) gushing after the screening, insisting it was the best flick we’ve made thus far. Bob is not normally an effusive guy, but he was so wonderfully dialed-into the flick and he expressed what I’ve thought for awhile now: “Clerks II” takes the best elements and stand-out stuff from our six previous flicks and puts them to work in a cohesive, ultimately satisfying fashion, under one roof. Bob said “It’s like watching a movie where the filmmaker puts everything they’ve learned over a decade into one movie, and it works on every level.” That made me feel terrific, considering the source.
2) Janet Maslin, the former lead critic of the NY Times (the woman who wrote this review of “Clerks” twelve years ago) shot me this email when I got home…
So where/how/when can I talk to you? Either phone or I.M.? I don’t want to type out a whole long screed this way. But I will give the highlights:
1) It’s beyond funny. A great job, and a fantastically good time. This is fact, not opinion.
2) You barely have to sell it. It’ll sell itself.
3) The zigging and zagging you mentioned: that’s what makes it work. The audience goes up and down and all over the map, but they never get a chance to figure out where it’s going. And you never have to stop to explain anything. Whatever longer version you had, you haven’t lost anything: short works great.
4) And it is so good-hearted. So cheery, in its crazy way. It’s such a moving experience in spite of all the funny stuff. I think for that reason it can cross over to people who know about the first one but never saw it. Especially if you tone down a little of the mildly freaky stuff (this thought brought to you courtesy of the person who bitched about the Poop Monster). By freaky I don’t mean the SPOILER DELETED. The SPOILER DELETED is a delight.
5) You have defanged any possible criticism. Nobody can say these guys are too old for this: you’ve made that part of the joke. Nobody can say it’s sophomoric because it’s so clever. Nobody can say it’s trivial because you’ve elevated all this to the level of homage to your own earlier work and who knows what else. The French will see this as a witty critique of American popular culture. Which in fact it is.
6) You can’t wait until August. You just can’t. Your audience is as web-savvy as an audience can be. And it is simply human nature to go home and say hey–I just saw a movie with a SPOILER DELETED and a SPOILER DELETED and a SPOILER DELETED and a SPOILER DELETED and a SPOILER DELETED and a 30-second SPOILER DELETED. Nobody will keep quiet about this. Every story out of Cannes will be a spoiler.
So: can’t you get it out there ASAP? Is it being shown in competition? If not, can’t it open here just before it gets there? I know there’s the worry of too many big summer things but this doesn’t have to open on a huge scale. It can be in fewer theaters and just stay and stay and stay. You will get repeat business and a terrific grapevine thing. People will find it for themselves. It’s barely going to have to be marketed.
Congratulations in a big, big way. I hope this is helpful. And thanks for a gut-busting good time.
I mean, Janet’s Times review practically made my career twelve years ago, as it gave a lot of folks the impression I was legit. To have her dig on “Clerks II” as well brought my career full circle.
Amy Taubin, the first person to ever write about “Clerks” (waaaaaay back in ’93, in her IFFM wrap-up piece in the Village Voice) was also in the house (I didn’t get to speak to her after the screening, but Mos did, and reported that she loved the flick). Mark Tusk, the man responsible for bringing “Clerks” to Miramax, was on hand, too, and dug it. Harvey Weinstein, naturally, was there and still digs it (might even dig it a little more, after watching it with an audience and hearing the response). And many folks who post on the message board over at ViewAskew.com (some of who’ve been around since we first opened the site back in ‘95/’96) filled out the screening room and also seemed to be into the flick. All in all, it was one of the ten best screenings of one of our flicks I’ve ever attended.
Post-screening, me, Mos, Harvey, and Weinstein Co.’s Michael Cole, Carla Gardini, and Kelly Carmichael huddled in a corner of the bar attached to the IFC Center theater (where we screened the flick) and talked about what’s left to do (lock up the music rights, screen for the Cannes programmers). I saw a couple poster concepts, and one really leapt out at me; hopefully, it’ll be what eventually hits the theaters.
We’re now pretty much locked-and-loaded for August 18th – a date that can’t come soon enough…