Cher, a high school student in Beverly Hills, must survive the ups and downs of adolescent life. Her external demeanor at first seems superficial, but rather it hides her wit, charm, and intelligence which help her to deal with relationships, friends, family, school, and the all-important teenage social life.
Clueless brings the world of Jane Austen’s Emma to the screen, but instead of 18th century England, as the backdrop to the world of Beverly Hills. Here, the matchmaker is Cher (Silverstone), a shopaholic, Beverly Hills princess with a head for matching clothes and matching up her friends.
Writer/Director Amy Heckerling delivers the upbeat script with the same seriousness and understanding that she brought to the dramatic Fast Times at Ridgemount High. The strong writing feels not only up to date with the trends and terminologies of the mid-90s So Cal group, but it also remains faithful to the intent of the original novel.
Cher is a caring person who wants to do good for others, despite her zip code and her thousand dollar outfits. She sees herself as a beacon of popularity that should be used to help others. Her first mission: to befriend the new girl at school Tai (Murphy) by giving her the makeover that she desperately needs to fit in with the popular people.
After Tai has become presentably trendy, it is time to set her up with the perfect guy. Here, Cher decides to set her up with one of the guys in her crowd, despite the fact that Tai’s interest lies in a scruffy but sweet skateboarder.
Unfortunately, Cher’s matchmaking for Tai proves disastrous, but there are many more couples that Cher has in mind to make. For example, Cher decides to set up her grouchy speech teacher with her arty, socially conscious civics instructor.
Even as Cher herself is fixing up those around her, she happens to fall for the fashion forward metrosexual Christian (Walker). Cher is ultimately “clueless” in her matchmaking endeavors, and begins to feel bummed upon the realization. Her friends inform her of the real reason she can never date Christian (spoiler alert: he’s gay!) To make matters worst, Tai confesses that she has fallen for Josh (Rudd) Cher’s stepbrother. Upon hearing this supposed good news, Cher becomes upset and realizes that she too has feelings for him.
The character of Josh is somewhat oddly placed in regards to the adaptation of the character from the book. In Emma, the character is a family friend, but in the movie he is Cher’s ex-stepbrother who still hangs out with her dad. Despite the knowledge that they are not blood related, the romantic relationship still tended toward the icky for me. No matter! Cher sets out to remake her inner beauty in an attempt to win him over. Cher takes on volunteering for several organizations at school to make herself over, and her genuineness ultimately wins over the viewer, and Josh.
The film largely hangs on the performance of Silverstone as Cher. Despite the spoiled upbringing of the character, there is genialness to both her desire to do good and her want to help others. Cher stays away from the Beverly Hills clichés with her good nature and intellect, which looking back at the film makes her seem like a predecessor to the Elle, of Legally Blonde. Maybe the two were neighbors in that wonderful village of fictional characters. The supporting cast is equally strong, many of whom have had good careers since the film including Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, and Jeremy Sisto.
Clueless is definitely a cult classic of the 90’s in much the same way that Ridgemont was for the 80s. The clothes and catchphrases will keep any viewer entertained even if it is just to reminisce about the days when people actually spouted the phrases “As if” and “Whatever.”