Satire, at least filmically speaking, is somewhat a difficult thing to pull off, particularly if a director even cares about the validity and pertinence of said satire. This is further problematized when an individual attempts to adapt a classic piece of literature in to a film satire, particularly when the film is centuries older than the novel from which it draws its inspiration. Fortunately, in the hands of Amy Heckerling, a film like Clueless, despite its rather dated cultural references and definitely nineties look, is a pitch perfect satire. From the opening use of "Kids In America," to the use of sped up camera shots to emphasize time lapse, Clueless captures the plummeting sense of morality and absurd degree of ennui that consumed the youth of mid-90's America, particularly those with an insurmountable amount of wealth and hardly any concern for the larger picture of the world in which they existed. An easily quotable film, it is clear to see why Clueless has accrued a respectable degree of cult status over the years, and while I was uncertain about my girlfriend's initial insistence of watching the film managed to find myself coming around to its brilliance in a matter of moments. This is also a film filled with what seems like an unending array of cameos, although considering the date of its release, perhaps the only actual cameo in the film is that of Wallace Shawn who was by then a well established actor. Clueless, as a satire, manages to exist in a world of absurdism that has viewers both considering the implausibility of what is being portrayed, as well as the off chance that somewhere, somehow this is a tragically real existence, one that makes you want to bang your head against the wall for having acknowledged. However, despite a somewhat roundabout plot, Clueless is quite excellent to view and manages to make, at least backhandedly, some statement about finding self-identity in a culturally vapid society, as well as the values of friendship with respectable and varied individuals...or it could just be a huge comedy, either route is fine by me.
Clueless centers on the less than troubling life of Cher (Alicia Silverstone), who along with her friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) roam the halls of their profusely wealthy high school exuding their clear popularity and somewhat less clear sense of fashion. Cher struggles with her grades, as she attempts to navigate the waters of a home life which witnesses her taking care of her busy lawyer father Mel (Dan Hedeya) in replacement of her late mother, as well as forming a bond with her pseudo-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd). Cher's life seems exceptionally lackadaisical, until the emergence of a new grunged out girl named Tai (Brittany Murphy) allows for a project in refashioning for her, and along with the help of Dionne the two make Tai into a thing of pride, despite her clear attachments to a grunge lifestyle and one of the schools skateboarder potheads Travis (Breckin Meyer). Similarly, Cher find herself falling hard for a new student, and Luke Perry look-alike, named Christian (Justin Walker). While Christian certainly appears to take a liking to Cher it is clear that Christian has no sexual desires towards her and would rather spend time watching Tony Curtis films and shopping. Once it is brought to Cher's attention that Christian is clearly gay, the two rekindle a strict friendship, while she comes to grips with her own identity something that is further drawn into question when she notes Tai taking a particular interest in Josh. Upset at first because she is so close with Josh, Cher eventually realizes that her attachment to her Dad's ex-wife's son is far more than just platonic and the two share a kiss of longing in the films closing moments, before they all attend a wedding for a pair of teachers they fixed up in the films opening scenes. Did I mention the film is based off of Jane Austen's Emma, if not it should be considerably obvious...what with all the insta-romances and out of the blue weddings.
There is a clear criticism to be formulated as it relates to Clueless, however, it is entrenched in some sort of Marxist-philosophical-psychological level that I am simply not equipped to speak about at this time. Instead, I want to conjecture as to why the film has managed to not only find success upon initial release, but why it has further lasted some seventeen years later. First off, the film takes a very critical, look at the generation we have become considerably nostalgic about in times of economic woe. Clueless manages to confront the issues of wealth and conspicuous consumption abrasively, without completely ridiculing the individuals in the film for enjoying success...or their parents success to be more precise. Yet the youth in this film are not completely void of value, sure they spend heavily, recreationally use drugs and are profusely vain, but they too are existing in what was arguably a scary time in American history, considering the images of Bosnia and middle eastern conflict that filled the screen, something directly commented upon in the film. Of course, it takes some degree of effort to get person's like Cher to acknowledge this tragedy and undertake organized efforts to confront the issues, but when she does so it proves rather successful. Furthermore, it is not fair to blame the youth depicted in this film for their disconnect, because as Herckerling's film manages to show, with the exception of a few driven teachers, they are essentially barred via media, parental distractions and capitalist desires from accepting the tragedies invading the world. Overall, this is what, I believe, manages to make Clueless a bit transcendent of its dated image and far more than simple satire. Clueless manages to capture a real tragedy facing youth of the era, that has, to some degree only grown worse within the past decade.
Key Scene: Aside from the various film homages, the best executed scene is perhaps when Cher takes her drivers test.
This movie is quite good and incredibly watchable and is, at the moment, available on Watch Instantly so as always there is no time like the present.