Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Clueless (1995)

Clueless is a modern-day update of Jane Austen's novel Emma. It was a successful film and it even got its own TV spin-off show. The Emma Woodhouse character in Clueless is called Cher Horowitz and is played by Alicia Silverstone. Like Emma, Cher is a rich girl who lives with her single father but she's 15 years old and lives in Los Angeles. Cher's mother is dead in this film, like Emma's, but her mother died from a "routine liposuction" that went wrong. Cher has a best friend called Dionne (no book equivalent) and the Mr Knightley character is called Josh and is played by Paul Rudd. Josh isn't the brother of Cher's brother-in-law in this film and is in fact her ex-step brother.

Clueless loosely follows many of the plot-points of Austen's book. When Cher hooks up two of her schoolteachers she decides that she's an excellent matchmaker. Then a new girl called Tai joins Cher's school. Tai is the Harriet Smith character in the film and is played by Brittany Murphy. Cher thinks that Tai is a loser and decides to improve her image. She then gives Tai a make-over and tries to hook her up with Elton, after convincing Tai that the stoner guy called Travis that she fancies is no good. Of course this backfires spectacularly and Cher is disturbed when Tai becomes more popular at school than herself. Cher then tries to seduce Christian, the Frank Churchill character of the film. Christian isn't secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax in this version (her character isn't even in the film) but he has another reason for not going for Cher. And I won't bother explaining how the film ends because if you're already familiar with Emma then you'll know.

I know there are people out there really love this film, with some even thinking that it's the best adaptation of Jane Austen's book. I'm sorry but I really have to disagree. Admittedly I did quite like Josh, there are some funny lines, and some of the updates are clever. Nevertheless I think that most of the characters are annoying and obnoxious and not likeable or charming at all. Tai doesn't make for a sweet and cute Harriet Smith, and Cher is far more irritating than Emma Woodhouse ever was! I'm not sure if it's because of the way Cher is written or if it's because I find Alicia Silverstone irritating in general but I suspect it's a bit of both. Either way the character just comes across as your stereotypical superficial, shallow, dumb blonde. I think it's odd that the film has her fall in love with her stepbrother as well. In fairness, the film does stress that Cher and Josh aren't blood relations and that Josh's mom wasn't married to Cher's dad for very long. I still think it's a bit weird though!

Another big problem that I have with this film is that it treats some inappropriate behaviour far too lightly. Maybe I'm taking the film too seriously but the references to drug-taking and casual sex in this film make me feel uncomfortable, especially when I think that that these characters are 15 years old and are based - however loosely - on characters from a Jane Austen novel. Cher disapproves of Travis for smoking weed yet she's perfectly happy to smoke weed herself at a party. Tai is a "loser" but she's still had plenty of sexual experience. Also, Cher is convinced that she's the only virgin at her high school and makes a failed attempt to seduce Christian. WHAT?! Emma trying to shag Frank Churchill?! No, no, a million times no! OK, I know that times have changed since Austen's day and I guess you could make an argument that the film is only providing a realistic picture of what really goes on in American high schools. But Austen's heroines were usually very moral and had strong principles. They had morals and principles that often exceeded those around them. Emma Woodhouse might be flawed but I just can't accept a character who's supposed to be her modern-day 15 year old equivalent trying to shag Frank Churchill; especially when she doesn't really love him and only feels that she should because that's what all the cool kids are doing. My final problem with this film is that some of the clothes that the characters wear are hideous! There's some very bad 90s fashion in this film! On the flipside there is a lot of 90s slang in this film that nobody actually uses any more. I find that quite amusing.

Anyway, I'm sorry if my review of this film upsets anyone. Clueless seems to be one of those films that people often get all nostalgic and misty-eyed over but I'm afraid I'm just not a fan. It doesn't bring out any warm, fuzzy feelings in me! If you share my dislike of Clueless though then I'd recommend trying the Gwyneth Paltrow and Romola Garai Emma versions if you want to see a far better and more accurate adaptation of Austen's book. And if you're just after a good teen film than I'd recommend 10 Things I Hate About You or Mean Girls instead.

Rating: 2/5
Film Certificate Rating: 12

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