Cornerstore Review

Today, we saw CornerStore, a “day in the life” comedy about a party store in Detroit. Based on the trailer, I was expecting something similar to Clerks, perhaps with more violence and less comedy.

Having seen it, I do think some comparisons to Clerks are appropriate, but at their hearts, they’re different films. Clerks is focused on the emotional development (or lack thereof) of the specific characters over the course of the film, while CornerStore is principally about balancing a view of life in the city with the light-hearted tone appropriate for a comedy. The former officially takes place in New Jersey, but could really take place anywhere; the latter is truly a Detroit film.

The main character is Gerard, who works at his father’s liquor store (the actual store is Six Mile Express on McNichols and Ilene). When his sister decides to skip her shift, he has to come in and cover for her. Unlike Clerk‘s Dante Hicks, he resists the urge to whine that he’s not even supposed to be there that day, even though it’s his birthday. Other characters include the three elderly mooches who sit outside the store all day cracking jokes and telling tales of their younger days, a Louis Farrakhan wannabe, some friends of Gerard’s who hang out intermittently throughout the day, and a tween boy who wants to his mother’s car to get fixed. The primary antagonist is Nazario, a local hood who leaves a packet of money with Gerard for safe-keeping during the day.

The conflicts are obvious and too easily resolved. There’s a predictable foray into the effects of hash brownies. There were portions that dragged on, suffering from the inconsistent editing common in independent movies. Despite these weaknesses, though, I felt it was a worthwhile film.

For one thing, I think it generally succeeded in the daunting task of maintaining a light-hearted tone while not shying away from some of the real issues at work in the city. The tween’s father is struggling with an addition to crack cocaine, something that’s hinted at but not overt enough to lose the PG-13 rating. One of the three mooches claims to have been a pimp in his younger days (“The only ho’s we ever seen,” says one of his buddies, “is the ho’s in yo’ shoes.”). Gerard’s friend has spent time in jail for selling drugs (prompting a humorous flashback with a Judge Mathis cameo). Several times, guns are waved around. One of the first shots in the film is the wife of one of the mooches looking for empty bottles near a burned-out house.

Also, Gerard is still working on his dream (which is to be a five-star chef in New York). It’s important, especially in those conditions, to keep a sense of hope. Likewise, his girlfriend is attending Wayne State. These are good characters to have chosen as the central ones. The comedy general works, too, which is the most important thing.

There’s plenty of product placement of Detroit-based companies (particularly Better Made chips and Little Caesars pizza), including a clash of placement when the tween goes to the non-existent Northland Center Little Caesars.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, and recommend those who’d like to see a positive spin on a city that needs all the positive press it can get.

After the movie, we drove down to check out the actual Six Mile Express. It’s not yellow anymore; it’s had a facelift, and is much more stylish now. Apparently the owners decided to invest their film money back into the business. Good for them.

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