Amy Heckerling single-handedly created the "chick flick" genre with Clueless: this hilarious, creative, original and delightful teen comedy that launched the career of actress Alicia Silverstone (who unfortunately never capitalised on her success and is now treacherously skirting on "Former Celebrities: Where Are They Now?" territory).
Heckerling's Clueless is a modern appropriation of Jane Austen's Emma, faithfully paralleling the story in terms of plot and characterisation. Both Austen's original novel and Heckerling's 1995 film are satires of their respective societies, using the most suitable medium as a vehicle to convey their social parodies. Although Emma is now considered a canonical text, at the time of the initial publication audiences would have perceived the novel the same way as audiences saw Clueless. The target audiences for both texts contrast enormously: Emma being aimed at the upper class and the aristocrats of the patriarchal society at the time, whereas Clueless appealed to the female teen audience. The audiences that have been enlightened by both texts acquire an insight into the morals and ethics created by the characters in their different societies that possess a certain degree of poignancy and realism.
The plot of Clueless closely follows the formula established with Austen's Emma. Director Heckerling, who wrote the screenplay, employs the Bildungsroman approach to storytelling. 16-year-old teenager Cher Horowitz (Silverstone) is your typical high school student living in Beverly Hills. She's extremely popular at school, and lives off her father's affluence. Her best friend is a teenager named Dionne (Dash). According to Cher, her and Dionne "were both named after great singers of the past that now do infomercials". Due to Cher's charm and social status she has a distinct penchant for meddling in the affairs of others and manipulating people to her advantage, which she justifies by thinking she's doing them a favour. After hooking up two lonely teachers to boost her grades, Cher then undertakes her next "project": to take the new "clueless" arrival at her school, Tai (Murphy), under her wing to give her a makeover and transform her into someone desirable.
The indubitable highlights of Clueless are the various one-liners and clever satire that permeate the dialogue and the voice-overs. Heckerling frequently employs hyperboles to provide a viewpoint of its female characters: their obsession with make-up, fashion, phones and the most expensive material goods possible. These character depictions are frequently hilarious. This film is extremely charming, bright and is of a pleasant nature. It moves at a fast pace and it's virtually impossible to feel bored. You will want more when the film is over.
Alicia Silverstone is ideal in the title role. Complete with pseudo-philosophical voice-overs and a chaotic lexicon of teenage vernacular, Silverstone possesses the correct amount of dizzy charisma to carry out her duties as the title female character. A spoiled brat Silverstone's character may be, but an endearing one all the same. The conclusion, obvious as it is, is gratifying. However, this film lives and dies by its supporting cast. Said supporting cast is nothing short of impeccable. Actors like Breckin Meyer, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, and Wallace Shawn (among countless others) are of a high standard. The film may seem predictable and dumb on paper, but these actors carry Heckerling's screenplay stylishly. Due to the great cast all round, the film pays off in spades. It's a shame that Silverstone's career became so lacklustre after this film launched her to fame. (I think her prime problem was agreeing to star in Batman & Robin...)
Overall, Clueless is a film I never expected to like...but did. If you can get past the predictability and the clichés, you'll see a very decent film on offer. Pervaded with an endless supply of creative laughs and a sense of poignancy, even guys will find themselves having loads of fun. Essentially, the film is Beverly Hills 90210 meets Jane Austen's Emma: a union of modernised 19th century social expectations with contemporary teenage characters.
"Sometimes you have to show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex."