Clueless is a modernized adaptation of the Jane Austen classic Emma. It tells the story of a girl who tried to help others by giving make-overs and playing match-maker, but learns that, while she thinks she knows everything, she is actually clueless. This is Alicia Silvestone’s biggest role and introduced to a lot of now familiar faces like Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy (RIP), Breckin Meyer, and Donald Faison (later Turk from Scrubs). Wallace Shawn and Dan Hedaya are also featured in smaller role.
One thing you have to give this film credit for is, it didn’t define what was going on at the time, but set trends for rest of the decade. It is now thought of as a quintessential 90s movie, but no one was really dressing or talking like Silverstone’s Cher before the film came out. This film changed how people expressed themselves, and kicked off the sunny happier part of the 90s, which started off with grunge doom and gloom. Also, I think every person my age learned the word “sporadic” from Cher. It also showed a female character that was girly but capable. I don’t think we would have Elle Woods without Cher coming before her.
My only real issue with this film is the pacing. There are a lot of subplots and they are all treated as their own separate entity, which each reaching a conclusion before moving on the next. Think about it, a lot happens in one like film. You have Cher setting up the teachers, Cher transforming Tai (Murphy) and trying to help her find popularity and love, Cher falling for Christian and that not working out as planned, Tai usurping Cher’s popularity, and, finally, Cher realizing she loves Josh (Paul Rudd) and having to figure out how to woo a non-shallow guy. That’s a lot of plot! While some parts have a payoff at the end, you could probably cut all the Christian stuff and it wouldn’t effect the ending. This may be indicative of the source material but I wouldn’t know because (confession) I’m not into Jane Austen’s work. Also, it seems like Silverstone and Rudd didn’t read the end of the script until they were shooting it. Their romance comes out of nowhere for me. Their bickering throughout the film is very brother-sister. The idea that they have been in love with each other all this time and just didn’t realize it, isn’t believable, but, hey, it’s Paul Rudd, who wouldn’t fall for him?
One of the movies biggest strengths is that all the characters are fully realized people. Everyone has their own point-of-view. These strong characters went on to inspire a book series and a television show that ran three seasons and included a good portion of the original cast, but never really had the same charm as the movie.
If you haven’t seen this one, I recommend renting it, instead of catching one of its many cable airings. The television version is oddly cut, leaving out some of the most memorable punchlines.