I saw Zack and Miri Make a Porno last night, and it reminded me of one of my greatest creative fears: getting stuck in a rut.
Kevin Smith’s had a prolific career for a guy who’s lived on the fringe of Hollywood. I love and deeply empathize with the man’s work – Clerks, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, and Mallrats are some of my favorite films – because he takes chances, and has his characters do and say things that are both realistic as well as envelope-pushing.
Granted, in watching a Kevin Smith film, you find a core of five principles that are central to each film:
- Sex is in no way, shape or form, a taboo of discussion.
- Cursing is a central form of expression.
- The characters either have never found greatness, or have greatness taken away from them.
- It takes place somewhere in New Jersey.
- It has Jay and Silent Bob.
In this sense, there are a plethora of stories you can tell, and he has – he’s up to his eighth movie, with these same principles.
With Zack and Miri, he breaks with tradition. He carries only three of those unspoken rules with him (He doesn’t appear in it, and it takes place in Pittsburgh), but allows himself to make a different kind of movie. There’s a certain quickness and madcap energy to it, and still, a greater sense of tragedy.
In Zack and Miri, the characters suffer unlike any Smith character written before. Their desperation becomes more palpable because of it. They, in all senses of the phrase, have nothing to lose when they make the titular decision. And while the film doesn’t have the usual snappy Kevin Smith writing and comebacks, he creates characters that are believably entrenched in their situations. The cursing, previously there to create realism, jokes, and familiarity, brings you into their world of frustration.
Zack isn’t a lazy smartass stuck working at a coffee shop, making fun of the customers. He’s somebody who has no other options, who’s failed in his life, and will lose the only place he has left if he doesn’t do something desperate.
Zack And Miri is a perfect example of the evolution of the creative mind. It seems like a typical Kevin Smith movie at first, and even more blatantly so; but really, it’s much more than that.
Some people can go their entire careers without changing even a single approach, to great success – like, say, Michael Bay, Kevin Costner, or AC/DC – but really, praise should be given to those who continue to challenge themselves, and find new depths wherever they can.
Kevin Smith, thank you.
P.S. If you ever read this, Mr. Smith, please finish DD/Bullseye: The Target?