Revisited: Clueless

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is a good-natured but superficial girl who is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of the high-school social scene, and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father Melvin (Dan Hedaya), a ferocious $500-an-hour litigator; her mother has long since died, having succumbed to complications while undergoing liposuction surgery. Cher’s best friend is Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), who is also rich, pretty, and hip, and understands what it’s like to be envied.

Among the few people to find much fault with Cher is Josh (Paul Rudd), her socially conscious ex-stepbrother who visits during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without malice; she refers to him as “granola breath” and mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain, and superficial, and says that her only direction in life is “toward the mall.”

Illustrating that Cher’s selfishness is usually innocent and relatively harmless, Cher plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard-grading teachers, Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink Caplan). She achieves her ostensible purpose—to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card—but when she sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she actually enjoys doing good deeds. Cher now decides that the ultimate way she can give back to the community would be to “adopt” a “tragically unhip” new girl at school, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the strong mutual attraction between Tai and Travis Birkenstock (Breckin Meyer), an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton (Jeremy Sisto), a rich snob whose father is a music-industry executive.

Her second matchmaking scheme backfires when Elton rejects Tai and makes a play for Cher. Matters worsen when Cher’s “project” works a bit too well and Tai’s popularity begins to surpass Cher’s, especially after Tai has a “near-death” misadventure at the mall that helps to skyrocket her to fame at school. Other classmates, including Dionne’s and Cher’s longtime rival Amber (Elisa Donovan), soon gravitate toward Tai, and Cher finds herself demoted from queen to courtier at high school.

Events reach crisis stage after Cher fails her driver’s test and can’t “renegotiate” the result. When Cher returns home, crushed, Tai confides that she’s taken a fancy to Josh and wants Cher to help her “get” him. Cher says she doesn’t think Josh is right for Tai, and they quarrel. Cher, left all alone, begins to think she has created a monster in her own image. Feeling “totally clueless,” she reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life. Most of all, she keeps thinking about Josh and Tai, and wonders why she cares so much.

After much soul searching (which includes a solo shopping spree around various Beverly Hills boutiques), Cher realizes she has fallen in love with Josh. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, even captaining the school’s Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. A scene near the end of the film finds Cher and Josh stumbling over how to admit their mutual feelings for one another, culminating in a tender kiss on the stairs of her home.

The film has a happy Hollywood ending for Cher: Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married; her friendships with Tai and Dionne are reaffirmed and solidified; Tai and Travis are in love; and now, in Josh’s arms, she too has finally found love.

REVIEW:

Every decade has that film that embodies everything (good or bad) about that time. For the 90s, it was Clueless, although some people have made the case for Mallrats and a handful of other flicks. You have to make the decision for yourself what your quintessential 90s films is.

What is this about?

Director Amy Heckerling’s fresh adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma follows the misadventures of meddlesome Beverly Hills high schooler Cher, who gets more than she bargained for when she gives a fashion-challenged student a makeover.

What did I like?

Slinging the slang. Many of the terms that we used in the 90s were popularized in this films. Terms such as “as if”, “jeeping”, etc. Also, terms that we, at least I, wasn’t familiar with were brought to the forefront, such as “Baldwin”, “surfin’ the crimson wave”, etc. The fact that one little film can have such a profound effect on the culture of the time and, for the most part, stay relevant today is dumbfounding, especially considering how many films of this nature are now nothing more than trips down nostalgia.

Emma. The plot of this film is very loosely based on the Jane Austen novel, Emma. Now, my only knowledge of that literary work is that it exists and was a film from around this same time, give or take a couple of years. So, after a brief conversation with one of more well-read friends, it turns out that some of the characters are obvious references to the literary counterparts and not too far removed, in terms of personality and fitting into modern day society. Be not fooled, though, similar is not the same. Still, the fact that they do have some roots in their origin and didn’t totally throw it out the window is something to be acknowledged, if you ask me.

Ageless. Much like the slang in this film, the music takes you back to this era. I myself have an urge right now to go put on a flannel shirt and doc martens and listen to some grunge. Yeah, I was one of those kids back in high school. Speaking of high school. Next year, this film will be 20 yrs old and 3 of its stars, Alicia Silverstone, Donald Faison, and especially Stacey Dash must be bathing in the fountain of youth because they don’t look much different than they did when they were filming this.

What didn’t I like?

Consequences. Taking into account that there is nothing serious about this very bright film, Alicia Silverstone’s character is attacked by her ride home after the party. Well, not really attacked, but he did try something with her. What bothers me about this is that it is never brought up. They see him again at another party and nothing is said and when Brittany Murphy’s character is infatuated with him (one of the many boys she goes through, might I add), nothing is said. I don’t know, to me it just seems like there should have been a warning that he might do that, or someone getting informed, etc.

Tai. Ok, so a wide-eyed girl white girl from Detroit is named Tai. How is this possible. I wonder if this wasn’t just a case of the casting directors liking Brittany Murphy’s innocent look. Personally, I prefer in this than to anything else she did in her career. Damn her becoming a skeleton like the rest of Hollywood. R.I.P. Brittany. On to my point, she goes through this rather weird, and somewhat forced for time purposes, personality change. It would seem that it was spurred on by the near death experience she has in the mall. Out of nowhere, in the final scenes, she’s back to where she was when we first met her, even apparently with the guy she was crushing on when she first got to the school. I just felt her character could have and did deserve better than to be rushed into what can almost be called mood swings.

Hot for teacher. Early on in the film, there is a pretty big emphasis on getting two teachers hooked up. After that, we see them a couple of times, and the female teacher has a line in the final scenes, but that’s it. I bring this up, because I recall them being a bigger part of the TV version, but here they just seem like an afterthought once they get together (excluding the wedding).

Anyone who was not an old fogey in the 90s has seen Clueless. As I have already said, this is one of the go-to quintessential flicks of that time. This is quite the fun and funny film complete with great characters, bright colors, and a short runtime. Do I recommend this fine film? With an emphatic yes! There is no reason to not check this out, unless you’re just some eternally depressed goth kid that hates any and everything, otherwise I highly recommend this as a film to check out before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

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4 Responses to “Revisited: Clueless”

  1. One of my all time favorites!!

  2. Same! Love this movie!

  3. […] sport a soundtrack that is indicative of the era, such as Back to the Future, Animal House, or Clueless, but it is definitely 80s, one of the most entertaining eras for music, if nothing else. One the […]

  4. […] would be considered quintessential 90s nostalgia. The usual suspects were on there including Clueless, Empire Records, Mallrats, etc., but a film that I had not seen or heard of, Go, made the list and […]

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