Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clueless

All of us have that movie for which we know every line of dialogue word-for-word. The movie that makes us abrasively irritating to friends and neighbors who just want to watch the damn movie and less-than-kindly demand for us to shut up already. The movie we can watch again and again without becoming bored, reveling in noticing delightful little touches we may have missed in our previous 364 viewings.

For me, Clueless is that movie.

I'll let you in on a little secret, just between us. Even though I loved this movie unconditionally from the first viewing, I will be forthcoming in my admission that I had no clue whatsoever what was going on. You might say, in fact, that I myself was clueless when it came to Clueless. Well, I might say that. You probably would spare yourself the embarrassment of making such a lame, hackneyed attempt of a joke. I, on the other hand, will shamelessly go for it.

The movie came out when I was in fourth grade, and I immediately and devoutly worshiped Cher Horowitz with ever fiber of my being. In the mid-90s, we were all about voyeurism in observing how the other half lived. Or, perhaps more accurately, how the media portrayed the wildly wealthy. Shows like Beverly Hills 90210 ruled the airwaves, with preteens and adolescents desperately coveting the undeniable coolness their privileged lifestyle commanded.



How can you not smile at that delivery? In the debate scene, Alicia Silverstone unintentionally pronounced Haitians as Haiti-ans, but it was so perfect for the role of Cher that no one bothered to correct her. Really, could she have been a more perfect casting choice?

That trailer is filled with some seriously credible 90s nostalgic goodness. That scene at the end in gym class, where Amber claims to be excused because her plastic surgeon doesn't want her doing anything where balls fly at her nose? And Dionne says, "There goes your social life"? That line alone took me about 5 years until I had my "ohhhhhh" moment of facepalming realization and retrospective blushing that I'd watched the move so many times with my parents.

Amy Heckerling, the teen-genre genius behind 80s classic Fast Times at Ridgemount High, took a smarter route to exposing and humanizing the teenage children of the rich and the famous. Clueless's dialogue may have sounded vapid and substance free, but beneath the veneer of superficiality and teenage drama lay a truly smart, well-conceived film. Heckerling loosely based the screenplay on Jane Austen's Emma, updating both the setting and characters to star the gum-snapping, credit-card wielding teens of Beverly Hills.

Like her Austen counterpart, Cher is utterly self-absorbed and spoiled but with generally good intentions to her scheming. She is undeniably likable as a character. She's sweet, she's funny, and she singlehandedly managed to bring knee-high socks back into vogue. What's not to like?




The film opens with The Muff's song "Kids in America" blaring, as well-groomed attractive teenagers cruise carefreely down the streets of Beverly Hills, go shopping, party, and frolic by a waterfall-type pool that would make the Playboy Mansion's grotto blush.

Cher is quick to cut the moment, though. Her voice-over muses, "So okay, you're probably thinking, is this, like a Noxema commercial, or what? But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl. I mean I get up, I brush my teeth, and I pick out my school clothes." For Cher, however, picking out her school clothes entails using an enviable and no doubt advanced for its time wardrobe matching computer program and the best remote controlled scrolling closet this side of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.


In a seriously condensed period of time, we learn a lot about Cher Horowitz and her lavish lifestyle. We meet her best friend Dionne, to whom she relates because a) they both know what it's like to have people be jealous of them and b) they were both named for singing superstars of the past who now do late-night infomercials. At school, we get to see a veritable range of 90s social groups, though of course grungy flannel is a popular theme. Cher learns she got a C in debate, dragging down her academic average. We also meet Josh, the ever-hunky Paul Rudd as Cher's ex-step brother and initial pain-in-the-ass granola-munching housemate.


Cher and her gang have a fabulous way of coining their entire own system of teen-centric terminology. Indeed, after the movie's sleeper hit status was confirmed, you could hardly enter the hallowed halls of any high school without hearing at least an occasional "Whatever!" or "As if!" Alicia Silverstone nails the doe-eyed tongue-in-cheek delivery of her airhead lines. She plays the part to perfection, letting us as the audience know that no, she's not really an airhead, she just plays one in high school. In actuality, Cher's no dummy. She manages to successfully trail in her father's litigator (the scariest kind of lawyer) footsteps by renegotiating most of her undesirable grades. Talk about results.

Dionne and Cher are well-meaning meddlers, as we see them trying to fix up two lonely single teachers at their school early in the movie. They also come upon an ugly duckling of a fish-out-of-water new student (sorry, I ran out of pond creature idioms) Tai, whose less-than-stellar appearance prompts them to do a major overhauling makeover to secure Tai's social standing at school.

Tai initially is warm to the form of slacker skateboarder Travis, but Cher vetoes that route as she's certain that if Tai starts dating the social climbing cretin Elton she'll no doubt claim a place in the A-crowd. This plan, however, goes awry when Elton expresses his feelings for Cher, to which she responds by storming out of his car in the middle of God knows where. She not only gets robbed, but is forced to lay on the ground in an Alaia for heaven's sake. An Alaia! I can't even fathom.*


I have distinct memories of seriously coveting that outfit of Tai's to biblical proportions. Now, well, not so much.

Cher, meanwhile, has fallen for new student Christian in a big way. She sends herself chocolate and flowers and wears revealing clothing in an attempt to win his affection. Her efforts, unfortunately, seem to be for naught as she's completely oblivious to the otherwise obvious fact that Christian is gay. If that weren't enough, Tai's supposedly traumatizing near-death experience at the mall suddenly makes her the toast of the school's social scene, leaving Cher to contemplate if she's perhaps created a well-coiffed monster. On top of it all, Cher also fails her driving test in the one moment of her life she can't seem to talk or charm her way out of.

In an effort to clear her head, she heads out shopping and comes to the Celine Dion and lit-fountain punctuated moment of realization that she is actually in love with her step-brother Josh. Okay, ex-step brother, but still. I mean, yeah, they're not blood related, but their parents were once matrimonially bound. It's a bit on the skeevy side.

It gets a little awkward around home as she suddenly is unsure of how to act in his once-maligned presence. Cher throws herself into the goal of becoming a better person in her attempt to distract herself from her crumbling personal life. It's all really kind of sweet in a completely out-of-touch with reality way. Like donating your expensive skis to a disaster relief aid collection? Probably not at the top of their list. Oh well. It's the thought that counts.

All's well that ends well, luckily, as Cher and Josh eventually confess their mutual if awkwardly familial feelings toward one another, and the two lonelyhearts teachers from the initial set-up are wed in a sweet concluding ceremony. Tai and Travis finally get together, Dionne makes at least temporary peace with her boyfriend Murray, and Josh and Cher are finally together after a long and painfully tense period of anticipation.



Alright, so maybe it's not real life. But that's the real fun of it. Clueless was more than just a modern reuptake on a classic. It was a film that briefly defined a fledgling generation teetering on the brink of a shift from grunge flannel and heroin chic to mainstream preppy teenybopperyism.** It was better than real life. The people were better looking and better attired, the setting was covetable, and the money was free flowing. It was a well-grounded fantasy that spurned a thousand Cher wannabes.

And of course, I just can't give you a full in-depth post on Clueless without posting (well, reposting) one of my personal faves: a Golden Girls Clueless spoof from the 1996 MTV Video Awards. I just can't in good conscience let you off the hook without enjoying some good old fashioned satire with jokes at the expense of some very comically talented elderly ladies. Enjoy responsibly.






*For those of you who don't know, she's like a totally important designer
**This is not a word. Just deal with it.

37 comments:

Caro said...

One of the best girly-girl movies of teh 90's.

Shop Girl* said...

Oh my gosh. I LOVED this movie!! I probably watched it a bajillion times, and clearly the storyline is still as popular as ever (as Gossip Girl has become a cult favourite).

For me, the movie I can quote from start to finish is Sleepless in Seattle. L.O.V.E. :)

Kris said...

This was almost the last of the great high school films... so wonderful.

Scientific Housewife said...

Clueless was my movie that I quoted and knew by heart all the way through. My whole middle school experience was defined by that movie. I still have notes where I said "As If" and "Whatever" in them.

Practically Perfect... said...

Loved this movie - I have the special "Whatever" edition in my collection right now! And that spoof was too funny :-)

P said...

This is my favourite film *ever*! Love it!

Cee said...

Oh how I love Clueless...and it also took me about 5 years to get the "there goes your social life" line.

JGIWC said...

YES! Another post I've been waiting for. Still one of my favorite movies. I

Ice Queen said...

Yeah, I didn't know what anything in that movie meant until much later. The same thing happened when I saw "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion". I still loved both though!

Lauren Kelly said...

I must have watched this movie a million times. LOVE it!!!! :)

Maggi said...

This movie is so fun, I still love watching it!

Sunshinemeg said...

'As if!"

Gracie Beth said...

I think the fact that someone let me watch this when I was 5 and I fell in love with it has greatly impacted the person that I have become today. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing.

Little Mrs Domestic said...

I remember I loved this movie when I was little! And now looking back I can't believe my parents let me watch it at the age I was at. I didn't get alot of themes either till much later! And I too coveted the clothing! Friends and I tried to dress like them, knee socks and all. And we also talked like that. Loved your post!

Lorelai said...

I know Clueless off by heart, and not ashamed of that fact. :)

Melissa said...

I LOVE your blog!!! I was born in 87 so I grew up in the 90s and I miss it so much. Those were the days... haha

Randi Troxell said...

love this movie... BUT.. the way funny thing about it is.. my husband can quote this movie line for line to word for word!

Melanie's Randomness said...

I remember when this came out I wanted to buy the white shirt & put the sweater over it sooo bad and look like Cher! I love this movie. Yup I know all the lines too!! hehe. For years and years I've been told that I look like Brittany Murphy from this movie. I was called Tye at my last retail job. I can't believe how big the cellphones are!! lol.

Gotta say I absolutely adore your blog. Your post is one of the first things I look for when I sign on. Have a like totally Rufus day and like doo some stuff... lol.

Carol said...

I love this movie and so wanted to be Cher!

Freck said...

The moving closet was friggen awesome, but forget Cher.. I Love Paul Rudd.

Annie said...

i loved that movie!
always wanted her closet, it was amazing!

Kristen said...

Ah I love clueless! I own it, it is just such a classic.

Lisa said...

Words cannot express how much I love this movie! I still know all the lines and remember all the fashions...classic girly movie!

Hanako66 said...

for me, clueless, monty python and the holy grail, and dazed....clueless is so good!!!

Janna said...

Still one of my favorite movies of all time. And I can relate to not getting a lot of the jokes at the time. Believe it or not, I didn't know homosexuality existed when I first saw this movie, so I had no idea what they meant when they said Christian was gay. I assumed it meant he was celibate, haha. How I grew up in a liberal family and city and didn't know what being gay meant until 5th grade is beyond me, but there ya go.

Lindsey said...

Love your blog!

Katie said...

Still one of my all time favorite movies!

Irwin Esq said...

OH I've got this movie memorized too!! I think it was actually in theaters when I was 15 and I went 5 times at least. Then for my 16th bday a friend gave me the vhs tape, I watched it everyday that summer without fail. When I was going off to college I had to get a second copy bc I had broken the first one due to too many viewings, love love love this movie!!

for the love of pictures said...

Loved, loved, loved that movie - still do, actually :)

Who knew that Brittany Murphy would 'steal' Alicia Silverstone's career.

Andhari said...

I LOVEEE CLUELESSSS. And I always quoted Cher every single time back there. And I started saying "AS IF" to respond to a lot of things :P

And yeah, who knew Brittany Murphy would be succesful, skinny and hot? lol

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

Ohhh My gOsh...Like I totally loved this movie... this is absolutely brilliant. I've seen this like a bajillion times. And after that out came the movie mean girls, and as shop girl mentioned Gossip Girl came to tv.
I remember wearing short skirts like Cher with knee highs... and saying phrases like "as if..."

Elizabeth Marie said...

OMG my favorite movie of ALL TIME! What does that say about me? I dont wanna know!! LOVE THIS POST!

Ms. Attitude said...

This was one of the best movies ever growing up! I loved this movie and still do!

Lil' Woman said...

I didn't get the whole ball things either till years later! :)

Juliana said...

I love this movie. When I was in fourth grade, everyone was really into the spinnoff TV show.

jules said...

This movie never gets old! Its so good. The Golden Girls clip was great!

Kerree said...

I loved loved loved this movie. I loved the clothes, I love Cher's jeep and I am still coveting the remote control wardrobe. And whats not to love about Paul Rudd?

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