If you’ve been around these parts before, you may be aware that I’m not the biggest fan of Jane Austen. I know, I know. It’s not the kind of thing book nerds tend to admit to. I did two literature degrees that focused on Romanticism and had to suffer the sneers of my professors and fellow students whenever Austen appeared on my reading list. Turns out nobody trusts a book lover who hates the Queen of chick lit. But, frankly my dears, I don’t give a shit. Austen is a paint-by-numbers kind of writer so once you’ve read one novel you’ve read them all. However, I’m a pretty big fan of the attempts by other media to adapt her novels into something people can genuinely enjoy. Of course, the pinnacle of these attempts is still one of the best teen movie of all fucking time.
Clueless is celebrating it’s 20thanniversary this week. With the unfortunate 90s fashion revival recently, it has become a fairly trendy piece of Hollywood history which is something that would usually fill me with annoyance. As a bitter and cynical 27 year old, I don’t really like it when the younger generations start taking something I love as their own. They’re sacred. However, Cluelessis one of those films that I’ve been forcing my friends to watch for years. It’s amazing. Everyone should watch and enjoy it… despite the fact it’s based on a Jane Austen novel.
Emmais my father’s favourite Jane Austen novel. I found this out during an argument with my friend during which I hypothesised that Northanger Abbey is the only Austen novel worth reading. I realise this is a strange fact to include but it’s something that always makes me want to be nicer about it. Although no amount of paternal love can convince me that Emma is anything more than Sex and the Cityfor a 19thcentury audience. Of course, this does make it the perfect basis for an outrageous, 90s teen movie.
Clueless stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, a high school student with a wardrobe that made every teenage girl in the 90s sick with jealousy and the desperate need to solve people’s problems. Cher is the stereotypical California rich girl but with something deeper underneath. She is incredibly self-absorbed but shows just enough awareness to those around her that you can’t hate her. Silverstone does a great job of portraying the character wholeheartedly that you get the joke but there is just enough irony there that you understand Cher is more than she seems.
Cher and her friend Dionne are high school students who are treading the murky waters of romance and popularity. Cher, who is more than happy to set up her teachers to improve her grades, has a tough time finding love for herself. So instead she focuses on a seemingly hopeless case, new girl Tai (Britanny Murphy). Cher moulds Tai into a carbon copy of herself because she really cares. She just doesn’t know how best to help this clueless young woman.
The narrative is fairly uninspiring in terms of originality: I mean it’s not like those who haven’t read the book won’t be able to see how things will end. However, it has fun with itself. It pokes fun at the section of society it portrays and, in its own way, the traditions of teen movies. Cluelessis a funny, silly and fresh take on a classic novel. Able to forgo the typical britches and bonnets style interpretation, it becomes a film that is both a successful adaptation of Emmaand a successful teen movie in its own right. It introduced me to the wonder that is Paul Rudd and I will happily watch this film again and again… and I will always be jealous of Cher’s computerised wardrobe.