Why I Love “Clueless”
Well, is it because I love Jane Austen, and Clueless (1995) is an insanely-dead-on riff on Jane Austen’s Emma? Yeah, in part, but mostly because I’m a huge fan of Amy Heckerling’s movies (she directed Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Making Mr. Right), and Clueless is a brilliant addition to the Heckerling oeuvre.
And it’s so funny. Austen is the patron saint of funny, but Clueless takes it a step further, imagining Austen’s heroine (Emma) as a Beverly Hills teen named Cher, obsessed with clothes, shopping, hanging out at high school, and (especially) re-arranging everyone’s love lifes.
Cher re-negiates her grades, helping teacher after teacher understand how the grade she was originally given wasn’t the actual grade she deserved — and receives plaudits from her father (a lawyer, a litigator, played by the always-solid Dan Hedaya) –“You re-negotiated your grades? Well done!” And she successfully match-makes one of her teachers, played by Wallace Shawn.
But finally, as it happens in Emma, Cher is dreadfully wrong in her matchmaking career — she fails to notice how Travis Birkenstock (love that name!) is the perfect match for her friend Tai, played by Brittany Murphy (now sadly deceased). They’re party girls, thinks Cher, and will match up best with the glittery boys, the most popular guys in the school. Cher’s other BFF, Dionne, is played by Stacey Dash.
Truth is, Cher is snobbish and class-conscious, and her politics are less than admirable. She thinks that Travis, who’s a skater and overall a bit of a hippy, is below her friend Tai, who like Cher is a rich girl, mostly interested in shopping. And Cher completely overlooks her stepbrother, Josh (played by the admirable Paul Rudd) — after all, he’s a bit of an environmentalist and a supporter of liberal political causes (but he’s also a lawyer and does some work for her father).
Like Emma, though, in the end Cher wises up and actively promotes that Tai\Travis alliance — and hooks up with Josh, whom she has had comfortable conversation after comfortable conversation with throughout the movie without realizing that she’s in love with him.
As the title has it, clueless.