Saturday 9 June 2018

Movie Review: Clueless (1995)

A high school comedy and romance, Clueless is a sparkling story about affluent teenaged girls navigating the hazardous complexities of friendship, love, schoolwork and trips to the mall.

Cher: Isn't my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972.

At a Beverly Hills high school, almost-16-year-old Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) are fashionable and high- up on the popularity charts, but not that academically inclined. Cher lives in a mansion with her father Mel (Dan Hedaya), a successful litigation lawyer, while her mother died young from liposuction surgery complications. Cher has picked up her father's sharp argumentative skills, and manages to talk her teachers into increasing her grades.

Mel: Which reminds me, where's your report card?
Cher: It's not ready yet.
Mel: What do you mean, "it's not ready yet?"
Cher: Well, some teachers are trying to low-ball me, Daddy. And I know how you say, "Never accept a first offer", so I figure these grades are just a jumping off point to start negotiations.

Cher regularly spars with her ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd), and takes it upon herself to create projects out of other people. First she arranges for teachers Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Ms. Geist (Twink Caplan) to fall in love with each other. Then when dorky new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) arrives at the school, Cher gets to work transforming Tai's looks and attitude and finding her a boyfriend. But things get complicated when Tai starts to gain in popularity and Cher herself falls for cool kid Christian (Justin Walker).

Tai: Do you think she's pretty?
Cher: No, she's a full-on Monet.
Tai: What's a monet?
Cher: It's like a painting, see? From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess.

Directed and written by Amy Heckerling as a loose adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, Clueless is a joyous and positive celebration of the teenaged high school world as seen through the eyes of privileged girls turning into young women. Here fashion and cliques are king, actual school work is irrelevant, every look to or from a boy is to be analyzed, and trends come and go in a day.

Mel (to Christian): Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel, I doubt anybody would miss you.

At the middle of it all is Cher, and Clueless succeeds brilliantly thanks to the immensely likeable central character. Cher's heart is as big as her father's mansion, and she combines her privilege with an irresistible genuine desire to improve the lives of others, her instincts to do good a pointy antidote to privileged rich snootiness. Alicia Silverstone is exceptionally well suited for the role and brings an an alluring goofiness to Cher, whether delivering exquisitely underprepared homework presentations or navigating her mammoth wardrobe, defining the best of what being young, wealthy and clueless can be all about.

Josh: Do you have any idea what you're talking about?
Cher: No. Why, does it sound like I do?

Clocking in at a breezy 97 minutes, Clueless is bathed in bright Southern California colours blazing with vivid pink and yellow fashions. The film is consistently funny, and often hilarious, Heckerling adopting a sharp self-aware attitude spiced with epic one-liners carrying lasting cultural impact.

Mel: What the hell is that?
Cher: A dress.
Mel: Says who?
Cher: Calvin Klein.

And despite the prevailing sense of fun, Clueless still finds time to explore themes of jealousy, sexual identity, the importance (or not) of losing virginity from a young woman's perspective, distracted parenting, finding love in the unlikeliest of places, and the agony of passing the driving test.

Dionne: Hello? There was a Stop sign.
Cher: I totally paused.

While Cher herself is on a journey to discover exactly how Clueless she is, the film is as sleek and sharp as a Rodeo Drive boutique.

As if!

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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