I wrote the following post for one of my writing courses – I figured it would be of interest to people in this course:
Kevin Smith’s quintessential 90’s slacker comedy, Clerks, originally contained a somewhat nihilistic and frankly depressing ending, in which a robber murdering the main character, Dante Hicks. This completely alters the tone of the original film and if it were included in the final cut, would have no doubt changed people’s opinion of the film.
Clerks, while somewhat existentialist in nature, was simply a love letter to the care free age of early to late twenties. Around that time, most people are still trying to find direction in their lives. The characters have pointless conversations about Star Wars, the people that surround them, relationships, drug use, and simply everyday life. However, by the end, Dante has found a semblance of purpose or at least been driven to find his purpose. He decides that he’s in a rut and it’s implied that he will try to move on. The ending, while not necessarily “happy,” provides hope for Dante. And in the broader sense, it provides hope for humanity. It confirms that while we may have the tendency to slack off and sometimes fall into mediocrity, we still have the ability to raise ourselves up.
If the original ending had remained, with Dante being gunned down immediately after he decided to make an adjustment, the film would have contained an entirely differentmessage. It would no longer be a satiric, yet oddly uplifting look at slackers; it would have become a tragedy. The message would have been that there is no point to trying. You could die at anytime, so why attempt to change your life?
Ultimately, Kevin Smith decided to remove this dramatic ending. This was generally accepted as the right move; Brian O’Halloran, the actor who played Dante said that he hated the original ending, providing the reasoning that it “was too quick of a twist.” This was for the best, as it provided Smith with the basis for the rest of his filmography: the idea that while slacking off may be fine sometimes, there’s always an opportunity to change and improve.