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.
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.
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.
|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)|
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.