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totally clueless

Clueless (film)

Clueless is a 1995 comedy film based on Emma by Jane Austen and set in a Beverly Hills high school. It was written and directed by Amy Heckerling and produced by Scott Rudin. Filmed over a span of a few weeks in early 1995, the movie was released in the United States on July 19, 1995. It stars Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Brittany Murphy and Dan Hedaya.

The film, which in many ways defined the generation it portrayed and has come to hold iconic status in its genre, spun off a television show and a series of books.

Plot

An update of Jane Austen's 1816 novel Emma, the film tells the story of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a good-natured but superficial girl.

Cher is attractive, popular, and rich. At a few months shy of sixteen, she has risen to the top of the high school social scene and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father (Dan Hedaya), a ferocious $500-an-hour litigator; her mother is long dead, having succumbed to complications while undergoing liposuction. Cher's best friend is Dionne (Stacey Dash), who is also rich, pretty and hip and understands what it's like to be envied.

Among the few people to find much fault with Cher is Josh (Paul Rudd), her altruistic, intellectual ex-stepbrother who visits during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without malice; she refers to him as "granola breath" and mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish and superficial and says her only direction in life is "toward the mall".

This makes Cher want to prove that she, too, has a social conscience. First, she plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard-grading teachers, Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink Caplan). She achieves her original purpose – to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card – but when she sees their new-found happiness she realizes she likes doing good deeds. Cher now decides that the ultimate way she can give back to the community would be to "adopt" a "tragically unhip" new girl at school, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the strong mutual attraction between Tai and Travis (Breckin Meyer), an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton (Jeremy Sisto), a rich snob.

Her second matchmaking scheme backfires when Elton rejects Tai and makes a play for Cher. Matters worsen, however, when Cher's "project" works a bit too well and Tai's popularity begins to surpass Cher's, especially after Tai has a "near-death" adventure at the mall that helps to skyrocket her to fame at school. Other classmates, including Dionne and Cher's longtime rival classmate Amber (Elisa Donovan), soon gravitate toward Tai, and Cher finds herself demoted from queen to courtier at high school.

Meanwhile, Cher has a couple of romantic mishaps with boys at school. The first involves Elton; the next concerns Christian (Justin Walker), a handsome classmate with great fashion sense who turns out to be gay. Cher naively and repeatedly fails to understand Christian's hints that he prefers the same sex, and tries unsuccessfully to seduce him while they are alone one night watching Spartacus. The next day, Dionne's boyfriend (Donald Faison), roaring with laughter, makes her mistake clear to her at last.

Events reach a crisis after Cher fails her driver's test and can't "renegotiate" the result. When Cher goes home, crushed, Tai – now dressed exactly like Cher – confides that she's taken a fancy to Josh and wants Cher to help her "get" him. Cher says she doesn't think Josh is right for her, and they quarrel. Cher, left all alone, begins to think she has created a monster in her own image. Feeling "totally clueless", she reflects on her off-kilter priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life. Most of all, she keeps thinking about Josh and Tai, and wonders why she cares so much.

After much soul-searching (which includes a one-woman shopping spree around various Beverly Hills boutiques), Cher discovers she has fallen in love with Josh. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more useful life, even captaining the school's Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. A scene near the end of the film finds Cher and Josh stumbling over how to admit their mutual feelings for each other, finally culminating in a tender kiss on the steps of her father's mansion.

The film has a happy Hollywood ending for Cher: her two nerdy teachers at school get married; her friendships with Tai and Dionne are reaffirmed; Tai and Travis are in love; and, in Josh's arms, she too has now finally found love and meaning in her teenage life.

Characters

A spoiled but sweet Valley Girl type – though she actually lives in Beverly Hills. The life of this sun-blessed Southern California teenager is free of any substantial worry. Cher knows what it's like to have people be jealous of her, not that she hasn't earned it: living in a mansion, she's the undisputed queen of beauty (and popularity, and all things in vogue) at exclusive Bronson Alcott High School. Cher is totally self-absorbed, and yet she isn't a victim; she’s tough and clever, like her attorney-father Mel. Cher and her fellow Bronson Alcott High students, particularly Dionne and Amber, look like they’ve posed for the cover of Sassy Magazine. They have long-suffering teachers who give them bad grades. Cher is not discouraged; she knows that happy teachers give high grades. Accordingly, she convinces two of her teachers that each is a secret admirer of the other…negotiating her way from a C+average to an A-average. Cher doesn’t have a regular boyfriend and she describes finding a boyfriend in high school as being as useless as looking for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie. Cher sets herself apart from the typical air headed teen queen by taking in "hopeless" or "different" students and increasing their popularity.

This big-time litigator is always working on big cases in Beverly Hills, where he lives with his teenage offspring: daughter Cher; and her stepbrother Josh. Mel is highly caring about what goes on in his kids' lives. And he's extremely protective of them, as any boy who’s ever dated Cher will verify: "If anything happens to my daughter, I've got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you."

Josh is Cher's ex-stepbrother, as Mel had been married to Josh's mother five years earlier. Josh is also Cher's complete opposite. He has ambitions to be a lawyer (his focus is environmental law) and throughout the film routinely visits Cher and her father at their house. Josh has a residence close to his classes but claims that being with Mel is a "great learning experience". He likes to keep up with current events and is something of an environmental activist at his school. Throughout the film Josh teases Cher but at the same time shows his caring and concern for her.

Dionne is known as Cher’s best friend throughout the movie. Both she and Cher are rich and beautiful, but caring. She and Cher are "named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials.” Cher uses Dionne as her number one fashion critic. Dionne’s boyfriend Murray (played by Donald Faison) is a minor character in the movie as well. They undergo spats about Murray shaving his head and Dionne finding “cheap polyester hair” in the backseat of his car, but also bond over Dionne’s first driving experience on the freeway.

Tai is the ugly duckling turned into the beautiful swan. Originally accused that she “could be a farmer in those clothes,” Cher and Dionne decide to help Tai and give her a makeover. With a change of hair, makeup and clothes, Tai gains confidence and a sense of style. Originally Tai fell for the dirty skateboarder, Travis, but Cher tried to set up Tai with “it boy” Elton to boost her popularity. After a “near death experience” at the mall, Tai obtains an overly confident attitude that ultimately poses as a threat to Cher's high social status. By the end of the movie, Tai gains back Cher's respect and friendship and begins to date Travis.

Comparison between the characters of Emma and Clueless

Actor/Actress Character Emma counterpart
Alicia Silverstone Cher Horowitz Emma Woodhouse
Stacey Dash Dionne Marie Davenport Mrs. Weston (in part)
Brittany Murphy Tai Fraiser Harriet Smith
Paul Rudd Josh Lucas Mr. Knightley
Donald Faison Murray Lawrence Duvall Mr. Weston (in part)
Elisa Donovan Amber Mariens Mrs. Elton
Breckin Meyer Travis Birkenstock Robert Martin
Jeremy Sisto Elton Tiscia Mr. Elton
Dan Hedaya Mel Horowitz Mr. Woodhouse
Wallace Shawn Mr. Wendell Hall Mr. Weston (in part)
Twink Caplan Miss Toby Geist Mrs. Weston (in part)
Justin Walker Christian Stovitz Frank Churchill
Aida Linares Lucy Miss Bates (in part)
Julie Brown Coach Millie Stoeger (none)
Sean Holland Lawrence (none)

Background

The film was groundbreaking for a variety of reasons. Much of the teen slang used in the film was researched by Heckerling during the four years in which she wrote the script. The success of the film caused much of this slang to carry over into real-life usage and it is still a major part of American slang at present date.

The costumes used in the film were surprisingly trendsetting and soon became the new fashions of real life, as plaids, pastels, babydoll dresses and knee-high tights quickly became the new "thing" in young women's fashion at a time where grunge fashion was still popular. Technology-wise, new and smaller cell phones and pagers were never used so much in a film as they were in Clueless; at the time, they were items possessed by a minority of the population.

Additionally, Clueless was one of the few films where the majority of a cast of teenage characters was portrayed by actual teenagers (with the exception of Dash, who was 28 years old at the time of filming).

The movie had a 40-day filming schedule. Producers sat in on classes at Beverly Hills High School to get a feel for the student culture. Herb Hall, the real drama teacher at Beverly Hills High School, played the principal in the movie. Many scenes were filmed in Costa Mesa and Beverly Hills with most neighborhood scenes filmed in Scottsdale, Arizona. Scenes depicting the high school campus, including the tennis courts, the outdoor cafeteria, the quad, and various classrooms were filmed at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.

The film is referenced in Snoop Dogg's 2002 song "Beautiful" featuring Pharrell. The lyrics are: "Hurry up and finish so we can watch Clueless."

Whatever! DVD release

A special "Whatever!" edition DVD was released on August 30, 2005. The DVD features featurettes and cast interviews, which were all used to celebrate the film's ten year anniversary. The features on the DVD included:

  • The Class of '95 – A look at the cast
  • Creative Writing – Amy Heckerling talks about the script
  • Fashion 101 – How filmmakers invented the trendsetting style of Clueless
  • Language Arts – Director and cast give facts on the groundbreaking slang, and how Clueless revived the Valspeak slang
  • Driver's Ed
  • We're History – Stories from cast and crew of Clueless
  • Two theatrical trailers

Clueless: The Sequel

In a recent interview with Graham Norton on his successful UK entertainment series, Alicia Silverstone stated that she is currently in talks about reprising the role of Cher but will likely see her back next year for the upcoming sequel to Clueless. Cluless: High School Reunion is set to go into production in April 2009.

Reception

The film became a surprise sleeper hit of 1995, grossing well over $11 million on its opening weekend second place behind Apollo 13, and it eventually grossed $60 million during its theatrical run. It was the 32nd highest-grossing film of 1995 and brought the then-largely unknown actress Alicia Silverstone to national and international attention.

Soundtrack

  1. "Kids in America" (The Muffs) – 3:18
  2. "Shake Some Action" (David Lowery) – 4:25
  3. "The Ghost in You" (Counting Crows) – 3:30
  4. "Here [Squirmel Mix]" (Luscious Jackson) – 3:33
  5. "All the Young Dudes" (World Party) – 4:00
  6. "Fake Plastic Trees [Acoustic Version]" (Radiohead) – 4:45
  7. "Change" (Lightning Seeds) – 4:01
  8. "Need You Around" (Smoking Popes) – 3:42
  9. "Mullet Head" (Beastie Boys) – 2:53
  10. "Where'd You Go?" (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) – 3:16
  11. "Rollin' With My Homies" (Coolio) – 4:06
  12. "Alright" (Supergrass) – 3:01
  13. "My Forgotten Favorite" (Velocity Girl) – 3:49
  14. "Supermodel" (Jill Sobule) – 3:07
  15. "My Iron Lung" (Radiohead) - 4:36

Adaptations

Spin-off

The following year, the producers decided to create a spinoff television series which followed the continuing adventures of Cher and her friends. Several cast members from the film went on to star in the TV program, with the notable exception of Alicia Silverstone (who went on to sign a movie deal with Columbia-TriStar worth $10 million). Silverstone was replaced in the series with actress Rachel Blanchard.

Books

A collection of books were also published after the release of the movie by Simon Spotlight Entertainment publishing company from 1995-1999. These books were published as paperbacks and aimed at young adult readers.

See also

External links

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