In the same week we lose Soundgarden’s Chis Cornell, Lisa Spoonauer one of the stars of the cult movie Clerks also passes.
For those of us coming of age in the mid 90’s it’s a cruel wakeup call that we aren’t in our 20’s anymore.
Lisa played the iconic Caitlin Bree in 1994’s breakout hit Clerks directed by Kevin Smith. It was a low budget, black & white flick Kevin made by maxing out his credit cards and filming in a closed convenience store in New Jersey.
And that little movie changed all of our lives, it made a star out of Kevin who has gone on to bigger flicks like Chasing Amy, Dogma and his legendary characters Jay & Silent Bob.
For the rest of us, that flick was the voice of our generation and for those of us that write, film and create it gave us the freedom to make our work, our way.
Yes that film was raw, profane beyond belief but funny as hell and paved the way for later flicks like 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad and so many profane coming of age comedies.
But the character Caitlin stole our hearts, she was the star in that two ring convenience store and video store circus.
And Lisa played that part, I don’t remember a character prior who could roll with the guys, still be a lady yet still be cool.
That little film was better than any reality show when it comes to retail and inspired me as a writer when it comes to dialogue.
Yes the conversations were fast, furious, funny and full of f-bombs but it worked.
Like the hit TV show Moonlighting a decade earlier (which was initially criticized for being too fast and people don’t talk like that), the dialogue was at times hard to keep up with up it was real.
People I know from the south side of Chicago do talk that fast and that funny and that many f-bombs and I know women like Caitlin, I worked with them at Montgomery Ward which was very much like Clerks.
After Clerks I felt comfortable in the romantic comedies I wrote back then to have characters like Caitlin and to tell stories authentically from my ‘hood without feeling like I needed to “clean it up”.
You ask anyone of my generation and this movie is classic, we watch it periodically out of reverence and hold it in high esteem.
Caitlin was the girlfriend we all wanted at that time and though maybe we didn’t want to be a clerk, still their documented day in the movie was better than anything the rest of us had ever encountered.
That’s what made the movie work, crazy enough to make you laugh but you could relate because we worked jobs like that and knew people (customers and co-workers), like that.
Caitlin kept the guys grounded and interested.
A Kevin Smith directorial debut without her would not have “checked all the boxes” and reading his Instagram post on her death was touching.
He mentioned finding her at a community college acting class and asking her about the movie in the parking lot “cold” and days later she accepted the role.
Can you imagine?
Well yeah it’s Kevin Smith (yes I have a man crush on him), and it makes sense for this movie.
So once again this week we say goodbye to a 1990’s icon, man it’s like our generations “Big Chill”, losing our stars like this but remember the great times their entertainment brought to us.
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