Kevin Smith startled his fans a few years ago when he announced that his sixth film would be a romantic comedy void of stoner icons Jay and Silent Bob and lacking the witty monologues that made him famous. The writer/director of indie favorites Clerks and Chasing Amy wrote to fans on his website that Jersey Girl was based on his experiences as a father and that this would be his most personal film to date.
Smith’s Internet fan base is massive, due largely to his active involvement in the message board on his website, viewaskew.com, which he reads and posts on regularly. Some fans revolted, having expected a long-awaited sequel to Clerks as Smith’s next film, or a revival of the barely seen Clerks TV show. Others welcomed a departure from the interconnected films of Smith’s career to date. Smith, who most non-film geeks know as Silent Bob, has admitted that he lost fans by making Jersey Girl, but he should gain some respect as well, ironically from the same filmgoers that have hated him since the super-vulgar Clerks came out in 1994.
Jersey Girl, Smith’s first PG-13 rated film, is basically a date flick for 20-somethings or for the parents of Smith’s usual fans. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was aimed at an older teen audience, while Jersey Girl deals with family issues and the love between a father and daughter. As Smith puts it, he needed to make this film as a break from the dirty joke formula that has driven his career.
“After five movies, I was burned out. I didn’t know how else to say fuck.”
Smith stopped in Miami as part of a lengthy press tour, and spoke with a group of college reporters in his hotel suite about Jersey Girl, J.Lo, Jason Mewes, his family life, and a random assortment of personal and public issues. The interview quickly turned to religion, a hot topic for Smith, whose fourth film Dogma was heavily protested by Catholic groups. Smith was raised Catholic and had yet to see the much-debated The Passion of the Christ, but gave his thoughts on what was wrong with modern Catholicism in the monologue-driven style of some of his characters.
“The toughest thing to believe is the resurrection,” he said. “That’s where you lose people. It’s easy to keep people around when Jesus was just sounding like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. But when you’re like, ‘Then he died and rose from the dead three days later,’ they’re like, ‘Get the fuck out of here! What else did he do? What did him and Santa and the Easter Bunny do?”
Smith kept the interview light, even when one of the reporters admitted to seriously hating Jersey Girl. He joked with her about not being mature enough to understand it and even called her a “cold bitch” after she knocked the acting ability of the film’s loveable young star. Smith sets himself up so well with self-deprecating humor that he can get away with something like that, a long argument with a teenage girl that culminates with him calling her a bitch.
After some questions about comic books and his filmmaking career, Smith touched on his expectations for Jersey Girl in theaters.
“I knew going in that there were some people that weren’t going to come along. You know, the hardcore fans will. But the people that really loved Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the 13 and 14 year olds, they’re not going to come see this picture. What is there for them to identify with?”
Critics of this film are labeling it as overly-sentimental and clich