Director: Amy Heckerling
Original Release: 1995
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
If you haven't seen this movie, you might be forgiven for assuming it's a vacant tale about a ditzy blonde. Nothing in the title or the poster would suggest that anything beyond the usual teen movie drivel is on offer. I myself was highly skeptical of the film when it was in theaters back in the day and might never have watched it if not for the encouragement of respected friends. On the other hand, if you have already watched it, you probably know that a more intelligent current runs behind the glossy facade.
Loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma, Clueless is cleverly written with engaging, nuanced characters. While Cher, the protagonist, and her friends all appear at first to fit the John Hughes teen movie cliches, each of the principals is allowed to grow and challenge his/her own pigeon-hole. By the end of the movie, they all feel less like caricatures and more like real people. The teen-speak which pervades can grate a bit, I will admit. But smart comedy saves the film at its most cringe-worthy moments.
Cher seems to have an ideal, affluent suburban life but a less than perfect report card spurs her to action. Faced with a particularly stubborn debate teacher (played by Wallace Shawn), she decides the best plan of attack is to fix him up romantically with another teacher. This is just the first of a string of good deeds Cher fulfills, initially motivated by self-interest but ultimately by genuine compassion.
My own favorite character is Cher's father Mel, played by Dan Hedaya (we've seen a lot of him recently). When a date arrives at the house to pick up Cher, Mel delivers one of my favorite lines in all of film:
"Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you."
The soundtrack is excellent, as should be expected from all teen movies. The songs are used in unexpectedly clever ways. A couple are used to symbolize characters. Actually, we're hit over the head with the fact that Coolio's "Rollin' with My Homies" represents Elton (popular jerk guy, played by Jeremy Sisto). But Josh (quiet, nice guy played by Paul Rudd) also has a song, more subtly placed: Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees." Better guy, better song - makes sense to me.
- Clueless is rated PG-13 for language, drug use and sexually-themed conversations.
- Our Girl made her usual complaint of "too much kissing," but not until the very end.