Review No. 385


The Bottom Line: Yah garl, I loved it. As if!

Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: Amy Heckerling
Based on: “Emma” by Jane Austen
Cher Horowitz: Alicia Silverstone
Dionne Davenport: Stacey Dash
Also Starring: Brittany Murphy, Dan Hedaya, Elisa Donovan, Justin Walker, Paul Rudd

Distributed by Paramount Pictures on July 19, 1995. Produced in English and Spanish by the United States. Runs 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sex related dialogue and some teen use of alcohol and drugs.

Clueless was watched on January 5, 2013.

“Christian said he’d call the next day, but in boy time that meant Thursday.” –Cher (Alicia Silverstone)

Clueless an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, loosened to the point of 1990s and glamour. Look at the poster. Surprise, right? Paradoxically, it’s surprising how that strange maneuver lies at the bottom of a pile full of surprise, surprise, surprise. (Surprise.)

You can have your vote, but as a film fan (as if!), I found the biggest surprise here is that our protagonist read William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at least two years prior, yet she takes less than fifteen seconds to associate Mel Gibson with his cinematic rendition of the character.

Oh wait, I forgot the bigger one: I was pretty surprised that she could actually sit through 1990’s Hamlet, while she couldn’t even pronounce “Spartacus.”

Now don’t think that I’m trying to point out all of the film’s missteps. In fact, I don’t believe these were intended (or perceived) as trivial flaws so much as subtleties that could (and do) evoke massive laughter.

All right, cut to the chase. I loved Clueless. Was I expecting the wrong film? Yes. Every passing second, I watched and waited for flaw after flaw to erupt and pour like lava. Because in movies, lava doesn’t flow; it flaws. And I’m convinced this movie, like so few others of its ilk, is impeccable. Either that, or a mistake would fly by like a shooting star whenever I was laughing. It’s possible, and considering the hysterics of Clueless, quite probable.

Our hero’s name is Cher (Alicia Silverstone). She’s a post-modern “valley girl” who’s brought up to a life of style and wealth in Los Angeles. Her best friend is Dionne. She explains that they met each other because they are both named after celebrities that went to infomercials (sure); but they’re still friends because everyone is “jealous of [them].”

She doesn’t need to explain to us that she goes to what is perhaps America’s laziest high school, but it’s a laughing riot seeing how her father endorses “arguing” her way from a C to an A-minus in a class she would have squarely failed in any sophisticated school. She even tries to act smart to gain acceptance from teachers and sound like she knows what she’s talking about.

I could go on about Cher, because she’s such a character here. But the storyline reaches its height when a new girl arrives, perhaps from Philadelphia or Boston. Now Cher is adopting her into the post-modern “valley girl” lifestyle, despite her severe out-of-town nature.

Clueless isn’t simply a gem, but a multi-karat diamond. The director (and even more fantastic writer) behind it all is Amy Heckerling, one of the most underrated filmmakers of the latter 20th century. I’ll be hesitant in saying that I have not seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but of course I’ve heard unending praise about it.

The film I recognize Heckerling for is National Lampoon’s European Vacation. It’s a long-time guilty pleasure of mine, and that’s where it differs from Clueless, a film that uses pseudo intellectual characters to instead formulate a brilliant plot.

Where the two are similar is in setup. Like European Vacation, Clueless builds certain characters and plot elements off some of the most common clichΓ©s, be they in movies or pop culture in general–and soars. This was especially true with it being a film from 1995, but it’s seemingly relevant today. As if!

Postscript: If you enjoyed Mean Girls and have not seen Clueless, you’re kind of in the dark.



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