Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Amy Heckerling|
|Written by||Amy Heckerling|
|Narrated by||Alicia Silverstone|
|Music by||David Kitay|
|Edited by||Debra Chiate|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$56.6 million|
Clueless is a 1995 American coming-of-age romantic comedy film written and directed by Amy Heckerling. It stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy, and was produced by Scott Rudin and Robert Lawrence. It is loosely based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma, updating the setting to modern-day Beverly Hills. The film's director, Heckerling, studied real Beverly Hills high school students to get the lingo and feel for how real teens in the 1980s talked. The famous quote "as if!" came from Heckerling's study of these teens.
The film grossed $56.1 million in the United States, received generally positive reviews from critics, has developed a cult following, and is considered to be one of the best teen films of all time. The film was followed by a spin-off television sitcom and series of books.
Cher Horowitz is a well-intentioned but superficial girl, who is attractive, popular and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of her high school social scene. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father Mel, a ferocious $500-an-hour litigator; her mother died from a freak accident during a routine liposuction procedure when Cher was a baby. Cher's best friend is Dionne Davenport, who is also rich, pretty, and hip, and understands what it is like to be envied. Dionne has a long-term relationship with popular student Murray; Cher claims that this is a pointless endeavor for Dionne.
Among the few people to find fault with Cher is Josh, her socially conscious ex-stepbrother, who visits her during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without animosity. She mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain, and superficial, and says that her only direction in life is "toward the mall". Cher plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard-grading teachers, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist. She achieves her superficial purpose, to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card; but when she sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she enjoys doing good deeds. Cher decides to give back to the community by "adopting" a "tragically unhip" new girl at school, Tai Frasier. Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the attraction between Tai and Travis Birkenstock, an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton, a popular rich snob.
Elton rejects Tai, and attempts, unsuccessfully, to seduce Cher. A handsome new student at their school named Christian becomes the boyfriend target of Cher. Murray spells it out to her and Dionne that Christian is gay.
Despite the failure of this endeavor, Cher remains on good terms with Christian, primarily due to her admiration of his taste in art and fashion. Matters take a turn for the worse when Cher's "project" works too well, and Tai's surpasses Cher's popularity. The situation reaches crisis stage when Cher fails her driving test and can not "renegotiate" the result. When she returns home, crushed, Tai confides her fancy for Josh, and wants Cher's help to "get" him. Cher says Tai is not right for Josh, and they quarrel, ending with Tai calling Cher a "virgin who can't drive". Feeling "totally clueless", Cher reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life.
After much soul searching, Cher realizes she loves Josh. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, including captaining the school's Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. Cher and Josh eventually admit their feelings for one another, culminating in a tender kiss.
Ultimately, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist wed; Cher's friendships with Tai and Dionne are solidified; Tai and Travis are in love; and Cher wins a $200 bet for catching the bouquet at the wedding. She embraces Josh, and they kiss.
The film's central characters are:
- Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, a sweet but privileged Valley Girl type, though she actually lives in Beverly Hills. Living in a mansion, waited on by servants, and flaunting her wealth with fashion, she's the undisputed queen of Bronson Alcott High School. Cher is tough and clever, like her father Mel. Cher 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: she describes finding a boyfriend in high school as "being as pointless as looking for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie." She is based on Jane Austen's character Emma Woodhouse.
- Stacey Dash as Dionne Davenport, Cher's best friend. Like Cher, she is rich and beautiful, though caring. Cher uses Dionne as her number one fashion critic. Dionne and boyfriend Murray have an extremely tumultuous relationship and often quarrel. They have spats about Murray shaving his head and Dionne finding "cheap polyester hair" in the backseat of his car, but they also bond over Dionne's first driving experience on the freeway, inspiring a wistful admiration in Cher. She is based on the Emma character Isabella Knightley (née Woodhouse), who was her sister in the book but here is her best friend.
- Brittany Murphy as Tai Frasier, the ugly duckling transformed into the beautiful swan. Cher and Dionne decide to give Tai a makeover. With a change of hair, makeup and clothing, Tai gains confidence and a sense of style. Originally Tai fell for skater Travis, but Cher tried to set Tai up with "it boy" Elton to boost her popularity. After a "near-death experience" at the mall, Tai develops an overly-confident attitude that ultimately poses a threat to Cher's social status. Tai also develops a crush on Josh, and asks Cher to help her get him. By the end of the film, Tai regains Cher's respect and friendship, and begins dating Travis. This was Murphy's first major film role. She is based on the Emma character Harriet Smith, Emma's protégée.
- Paul Rudd as Josh Lucas, Cher's ex-stepbrother: her father, Mel, married Josh's mother five years earlier. Josh has ambitions to be a lawyer (his focus is environmental law), and during a college break comes for a protracted visit with Cher and her father at their house. He claims that being around Mel is a "great learning experience". Throughout the film, Josh teases Cher, but at the same time shows his caring and concern for her. He is based on the Emma character George Knightley.
- Dan Hedaya as Melvin "Mel" Horowitz, a gruff but successful workaholic. As a litigator, he is constantly involved in big cases in Beverly Hills, where he lives with his teenage daughter Cher. Despite being divorced from Josh's mother, he tells his daughter "You divorce wives, not children" and is very protective of Cher, warning Christian: "If anything happens to my daughter, I've got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you." He is based on Emma's father, Mr. Woodhouse.
- Elisa Donovan as Amber Mariens, a popular spoiled brat who is despised by Cher and Dionne. She is in constant competition with Cher when it comes to style, popularity, and boys. Cher dubs her a "Monet" (just like the painting, "from far away it's okay, but up close it's a big old mess.") She is based on the Emma character Augusta Elton.
- Justin Walker as Christian Stovitz, Cher's initial love interest. To catch Christian's attention, Cher sends herself flowers, candies, and love notes. Christian finally attends a party with Cher, where he shows up in fashionable attire. Cher plans a big night to finally have sex with Christian, but he ignores her advances. It is later revealed that this is because he is gay. He is based on the Emma character Frank Churchill (who was not gay, but was secretly engaged to another).
- Other characters
- Wallace Shawn as Mr. Wendell Hall, based on the Emma character Mr. Weston.
- Twink Caplan as Ms. Geist, based on the Emma character Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston.
- Julie Brown as Coach Millie Stoeger.
- Donald Faison as Murray Duvall, Dionne's long-term boyfriend, based on the Emma character John Knightley (who was George Knightley's brother in the book but isn't related to anyone here).
- Breckin Meyer as Travis Birkenstock, based on the Emma character Robert Martin.
- Jeremy Sisto as Elton Tiscia, based on the Emma character Philip Elton.
- Nicole Bilderback as Summer.
Principal photography for the film took place between November 21-December 31, 1994. The film 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 film. 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. The mall scenes were filmed at Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, CA.
Clueless opened theatrically in 1,653 theaters on July 19, 1995.
The film was reissued in a special 10th anniversary DVD "Whatever! Edition" on August 30, 2005. The new issue included featurettes and cast interviews, including:
- 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 – The director and cast members give facts on the groundbreaking slang, and how Clueless revived Valspeak slang
- Suck and Blow – How to play the game depicted in the Sun Valley party scene
- Driver's Ed
- We're History – Stories from cast and crew of Clueless
- Two theatrical trailers
The film was released on Blu-ray Disc for the first time on May 1, 2012. Special features were carried over from the "Whatever!" edition of 2005, and included a new trivia track.
The film became a surprise sleeper hit of 1995, grossing $10,612,443 on its opening weekend, ranking second behind Apollo 13. The film grossed $56,631,572 during its theatrical run, becoming the 32nd highest-grossing film of 1995 and bringing the then-largely-unknown Silverstone to international attention. It also developed a strong cult following after its release.
The film was well received by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 80% based on reviews from 61 critics and judged it "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 6.9/10, the site's critical consensus reads: "A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, Clueless offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati." On Metacritic, the film has a 68 out of 100 rating based on 18 reviews, indicating "generally positive reviews".
The film was viewed to be the start of impactful teen flicks that had strong influences over fashion trends and lingo. Fashion as a form of self-expression played an important role in the narrative and character development of the film, television series, and novels, something Alice Leppert examines.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars. Janet Maslin of The New York Times notes "Even if Clueless runs out of gas before it's over, most of it is as eye-catching and cheery as its star." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars, contrasting it to the more adult-oriented film about teenagers released around the same time, Kids, stating "The materialism in Clueless is almost as scary as the hopelessness in Kids."
In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named it the 19th best comedy of the past 25 years.
American Film Institute recognition:
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "As if!" - Nominated
After the death of Brittany Murphy, Silverstone stated that she "always felt connected to [Murphy] as [they] shared a very special experience in [their] lives together." Following Murphy's death, Silverstone reported in an interview: "I loved working with Brittany. She was so talented, so warm, and so sweet."
Heckerling later reunited with both Silverstone and Shawn for the vampire comedy Vamps.
Clueless was the main inspiration for Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's music video to her U.S. number one hit single "Fancy" featuring Charli XCX, with many visuals as well as costumes inspired by the film. The video is filled with remakes of classic Clueless scenes, and the outfits are reinvented to channel the famous stylings of the film with a slightly modern edge. "Fancy" was also shot in the same Los Angeles high school where Clueless was filmed.
The film was very known for the characters' catchy phrases and vocabulary, "Cher's verbal style is also marked by ironic contrasts between current slang and historical references, as when she compares Tai to "those Botticelli chicks." The characterization through their verbal speech can be seen as enjoyable to audiences. 
In 2015, to celebrate the film's twentieth anniversary, pop culture writer Jen Chaney published a book titled As If!: The Oral History of Clueless, based on exclusive interviews with Amy Heckerling, Alicia Silverstone, and other cast and crew members. Excerpts from the book were published in Vanity Fair.
- "Kids in America" (The Muffs) – 3:18
- "Shake Some Action" (Cracker) – 4:25
- "The Ghost in You" (Counting Crows) – 3:30
- "Here" (Squirmel Mix) (Luscious Jackson) – 3:33
- "All the Young Dudes" (World Party) – 4:00
- "Fake Plastic Trees" (acoustic version) (Radiohead) – 4:45
- "Change" (Lightning Seeds) – 4:01
- "Need You Around" (Smoking Popes) – 3:42
- "Mullet Head" (Beastie Boys) – 2:53
- "Where'd You Go?" (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) – 3:16
- "Rollin' with My Homies" (Coolio) – 4:06
- "Alright" (Supergrass) – 3:01
- "My Forgotten Favorite" (Velocity Girl) – 3:49
- "Supermodel" (Jill Sobule) – 3:07
In 1996, the producers created 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 series, with the notable exceptions of Silverstone (who went on to sign a film deal with Columbia-TriStar worth $10 million) and Rudd (whose film career began to take off). Silverstone was replaced in the series with actress Rachel Blanchard.
- Dash reprised the role of Dionne.
- Faison reprised the role of Murray.
- Donovan reprised the role of Amber.
- Michael Lerner (first season) and Doug Sheehan replaced Hedaya as Mel.
- David Lascher replaced Rudd as Josh.
- Heather Gottlieb replaced Murphy as Tai.
- Teachers Mr. Hall, Ms. Geist, and Coach Stoeger (played by their respective actors) appeared in the series, but Coach Stoeger's surname was changed to "Diemer".
Episode (app) made an animated web story based on the film.
Stage musical adaptation
In June 2015, Amy Heckerling announced that a Clueless jukebox musical was in the works. It was announced on June 13, 2018 that Clueless, The Musical will make its Off-Broadway debut November 20, 2018 through January 13, 2019 as part of The New Group season. The cast will be headed by Dove Cameron as Cher.
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