Clueless (1995)
Clueless (1995)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Release Date: July 19th, 1995 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Amy Heckerling Actors: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Elisa Donovan, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto, Dan Hedaya, Wallace Shawn

 


 

C

her (Alicia Silverstone) claims to be a normal California high school student, but her ludicrously wealthy litigator father (Dan Hedaya) negligently gives her more money and possessions than she can possibly appreciate or comprehend. She revels in her knowledgeableness about the jealousy she inspires, getting along nicely with best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) because of her comparable affluence. Her current problems stem from the arrival of her nerdy stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd), a college freshman who annoyingly watches the news and reads the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, and her debate teacher Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn), who refuses to acknowledge her scholastic aptitude (reflected in her “C+” for the class) and doesn’t succumb to her pleas for grade negotiations.

Deciding that her best approach to softening Hall’s perspective is a distractive romance, she sets into motion a plan to connect him with Miss Geist (Twink Caplan), a disheveled woman in desperate need of a makeover. Though do-gooder Josh assumes that her matchmaking efforts aren’t selfless, when Hall and Geist begin dating, Cher feels genuinely gratified with herself. She opts to hone her newfound talents on further acquaintances, singling out new student Tai (Brittany Murphy), a hopelessly clueless girl with absolutely no sense of fashion. But in her attempt to pair Tai with Elton (Jeremy Sisto), she fails to see that Tai actually likes slacker skateboarder Travis (Breckin Meyer).

High society London has transformed into ritzy Beverly Hills in this obvious twist on Jane Austen’s “Emma,” fueled by gossip, manipulation, snobbery, and mismatched lovers. Amy Heckerling’s modernized and displaced script also borrows motifs from “My Fair Lady” (reshaping Tai’s undesirable etiquette) and “All About Eve” (with classmate Amber’s [Elisa Donovan] insinuating). But perhaps most insightful and clever of all are the hilarious nods to classic literature quotes (and artists, playwrights, and actors), Hedaya’s outrageous belligerence, and the dysfunction of nice family dinners devastated by bad attitudes and cell phones. There’s evident commentary on the intrusive nature of technology, which amusingly corresponds to Cher’s meddling.

Also high on the list of impressively creative alterations to the Austen storyline are the re-envisionings of familiar conversations, melodrama, predicaments, blame/guilt, and romantic discordancy. They comically clash with edgy teen vernacular, bared midriffs, and talks about virginity and seduction. Not unlike John Hughes’ knack for authentic adolescent discourse, Heckerling’s dialogue is uproarious, intelligent, and ideally representative of stylish youth. Status and popularity are still of major importance, but so too are obtaining a driver’s license and selecting the perfect outfit for every occasion. Carefully obscured by montages, contemporary music, and partying, “Clueless,” with the fitting irony of its title, is a surprisingly witty, artistic, and laugh-out-loud affair (though its shrewdest homages are reserved solely for audiences well versed on the celebrated source material).

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10