Why Did Kevin Smith Make 'Jersey Girl'?

Why the "Clerks'" Writer/Director Put Family First

Jersey Girl

Writer/director Kevin Smith really put his heart into his 2004 film Jersey Girl. At the time of its release, Smith described it as his most personal film to date. Though the PG-13 film -- a first for Smith -- was his biggest budget project, the movie received average to negative reviews from critics, received backlash for following up the previous Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez film, Gigli, and was a box office bomb.

Smith later returned to R-rated fare like Clerks II and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, making Jersey Girl perhaps the most unique movie in Smith's filmography.

In 2004, Smith revealed what inspired the movie in the production notes of Jersey Girl:

After nearly ten years of telling stories about surly register jockeys, youthful mall denizens, flip-flopping lesbians and the sexually insecure men who love them, fallen angels and other contemporaries of "The Christ" (as we’ve come to know Him, courtesy of Mad Max Riggs), and amiable stoners who run afoul of the internet, I felt like it was time to really let my hair down. Hence Jersey Girl.

I've never fallen for a gay woman, I've never faced down a rubber Poop Monster, and while I have worked in convenience stores, if I ever dreamed of lipping off to the customers, I would have spent an inordinate amount of time at the mall as an ex-convenience store employee.

But while fiction is always far more entertaining than real life, you need a seed of truth to kick off any good story. For Jersey Girl, it was the reverse: I needed a small point of fiction to tell a much more personal story. Which is why, to this day, my wife still won't believe I wrote the film as a valentine for her – because I kill her proxy off in the first fifteen minutes.

Regardless, she is my muse on the flick.

I was working on the ill-fated, ABC-sh*t-canned Clerks cartoon back in 2000. Needless to say, while it was a gas to write as I exercised my funny bone, that most important of muscles – the heart – was feeling flabby. Granted, it could’ve been all the Twinkies I was putting away at that pre-Atkins stage of my life; but I like to think I was just eager to write something a little more emotional. So one night, when I got home from a long day of gag-writing, I watched my wife put our then-two-month-old to bed. The pair of them were incredible: Jen, who so naturally took to motherhood, and Harley, who was so pure and perfect. And what was I? The guy who came home at the end of the day. A tourist. I always thought it was a miracle that I had a career in film at all. But the real miracle was playing out in front of my eyes. And from that moment forward, I decided my professional life would have to take a backseat, while I became more present in my personal life.

As my wife turned out the lights in the baby's room, I was struck by this grim thought: that choice wouldn't be mine to make if Harley had made it through delivery but Jen hadn't. How would I deal with the loss of one love of my life while raising the other alone?

That night, after Jen went to sleep, I sat down and wrote for two hours. The result was the first fifty pages of what would two years later become the movie you're about to see.

This isn’t my funniest or most original film to date. It's not the most controversial or clever either (indeed, some would have me believe I've never made any film that can be described by any of those terms). But it is my most personal. It’s not only spun from a six year love affair with my wife and child, but also the thirty three year long love affair I was lucky to share with my own, recently-deceased Dad. It’s a movie about fathers, made by one dad who’s still learning the ropes as a tribute to his Dad, who made fatherhood an art form. It’s about how the only way I could ever fully appreciate what a great Father I had was by becoming one myself.

But most of all, it’s about… 103 minutes long.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick

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Murray, Rebecca. "Why Did Kevin Smith Make 'Jersey Girl'?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2016, thoughtco.com/kevin-smith-and-jersey-girl-2419370. Murray, Rebecca. (2016, September 7). Why Did Kevin Smith Make 'Jersey Girl'? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/kevin-smith-and-jersey-girl-2419370 Murray, Rebecca. "Why Did Kevin Smith Make 'Jersey Girl'?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kevin-smith-and-jersey-girl-2419370 (accessed November 19, 2017).