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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Hollywood Rewind | Clueless: A self-aware, soft satire that’s wholesome to boot

From music, fashion to books, the impact of Clueless has been all consuming. In fact, even as I write this article, a reboot of the beloved 1995 Amy Heckerling directorial is being developed for NBC's streaming platform Peacock.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: September 20, 2020 12:04:31 pm
cluelessAlicia Silverstone-starrer Clueless released in 1995. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Only a few movies manage to permeate various fields and influence generations of movie lovers. Alicia Silverstone-starrer Clueless is an example in case. From music, fashion to books, the impact of Clueless has been all consuming. In fact, even as I write this article, a reboot of the beloved 1995 Amy Heckerling directorial is being developed for NBC’s streaming platform Peacock. But you may wonder, ‘Isn’t Clueless just your generic teen comedy?’ And you are right, at first glance, it does seem that way. But Clueless is a good-natured soft satire that often subverts its own genre.

There is not much in the way of plot here. The film revolves around Alicia’s Cher Horowitz who is beautiful, rich and extremely popular. She goes to Bronson Alcott High School and lives in Beverly Hills. Cher is obsessed with style and fashion and chooses to be smart only when the situation demands it. Otherwise, she seemingly lives a fulfilled teen life along with her best friend Dionne Davenport. One of Cher’s favourite things to do is to play cupid, and she finds her perfect ‘next project’ in newcomer Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). What follows next forms the backbone of the storyline.

The culture of Beverly Hills residents, their over-the-top living and grandeur is jabbed at with light and playful fingers by writer-director Amy Heckerling. The film is said to be loosely based on Emma, and that becomes quite evident within the first few minutes of the movie when we see Cher try and arrange a date between two of her teachers. Just like Jane Austen’s Emma, Cher too tries to meddle in people’s affairs, albeit with good intentions, and like Emma, Cher also doesn’t comprehend the far-reaching affects of her actions. Alicia Silverstone is more than credible as Cher as she switches easily from being an airhead to a street-smart know-it-all. The supporting cast also delivers, but perhaps no one more than the late Brittany Murphy, who is thoroughly entertaining as the gullible Tai. Paul Rudd as smarty alec Josh and Dan Hedaya’s portrayal of the affluent Mel Horowitz is on point.

One of the biggest USPs of Clueless is not only how cleverly it sells the idea of a teen romedy, but also manages to sneakily throw in parodies, subversions into the mix without making it all too obvious. Another thing that speaks of Clueless’ longevity is its main character’s development. Cher’s character arc is hard to ignore — she goes from superficial to empathetic in a balanced, believable fashion within the span of 96 minutes. As Alicia herself had told Vogue in a 2020 interview, “I think people identify with Cher’s heart and her willingness to change and grow because of how silly she was. She was trying hard to evolve because of her sweet Josh. I don’t know how to explain why or what made Clueless what it was, but I know it happened and I know that people continue to love it. And it never gets old, so that’s the good news. People always say ‘Oh you must be so sick of it.’ But what’s there to be sick of? People liking the movie you’re in? It truly doesn’t get better.”

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You can stream Clueless on YouTube.

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