Rumor has it that Alicia Silverstone hates being referred to as "the Aerosmith chick," but Appellate Judge Erick Harper thinks it has to be better than admitting she was in The Crush.
Our review of Clueless (Blu-ray), published May 1st, 2012, is also available.
Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Is there a problem here?
Clueless launched the career of Alicia Silverstone, previously known primarily as "the Aerosmith video chick" or from a series of small roles in forgotten flicks. It also provided the first major role for a young (and not yet skeletal) Brittany Murphy.
Facts of the Case
Cher Horowitz (Silverstone, Blast from the Past, Love's Labours Lost) lives the perfect life of a wealthy SoCal teenager. She is beautiful, popular, spoiled, and having a great time spending her father's money. However, chided by her ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Overnight Delivery), she begins to think that there may indeed more to life than just shopping and boys.
Cher decides to start doing good things for other people. First, she takes dorky transfer student Tai (Murphy, Uptown Girls, Sin City) under her wing and transforms the ugly duckling into a vapid, snobbish, popularity-crazy mirror image of herself. She sets out to help two socially inept teachers find love. She organizes a donation drive for people facing a natural disaster in some far-off land. Miraculously, she becomes a more sensitive and enlightened person, and attracts the attention of the older, wiser Josh.
Writer-director Amy Heckerling is probably best known for her other teen comedy, the essential Fast Times at Ridgemont High. She brings the same combination of goofiness and insight that made Fast Times a classic to bear on the glitzy, ditzy world of Clueless with similarly memorable results.
What sets Heckerling's teen films apart from their mass-produced multiplex fodder counterparts is the self-awareness of the characters. Yes, they are still driven by the desires that rule teens in lesser films: popularity, independence, and the opposite sex, not necessarily in that order. The difference is that Heckerling's characters, like those in a John Hughes film, at least stop from time to time to consider why they do what they do, and possibly even consider the consequences. Filmmakers like Heckerling (and Hughes) who understand teenagers and make worthwhile teen films celebrate nascent maturity rather than reveling in perpetual, caricatured adolescence. That Heckerling hides this under such a seemingly lightweight exterior is part of what makes Clueless so much fun.
Alicia Silverstone's comedic performance complements this approach perfectly, hiding intelligence and wit behind a bimboesque facade. Only a truly intelligent and talented actress can play this dumb this convincingly and not come across as insulting to the audience. Silverstone brings unexpectedly good comedic talents to everything the role requires, from the painfully hip ditzy-witty dialogue to romantic pratfalls.
The Clueless—"Whatever!" Edition is part of a recent series of releases with similarly cheesy names derived from key lines in their respective movies, e.g. the Animal House—Double-Secret Probation Edition and the Office Space—Special Edition with Flair. In keeping with those releases, this incarnation of Clueless sports a serviceable but flawed anamorphic widescreen transfer. The bright colors of the Clueless world are rendered in all their southern California sunshiny brightness, but the image overall is soft. Fine details like shingles on a roof or the exterior stonework of the fabulous homes of Cher's friends are almost nonexistent. Cher's father Mel Horowitz (Dan Hedaya, Commando, Running Scared) displays a halo that seems incongruous with the character.
Audio is adequate but not very noteworthy. Either the Dolby 2.0 Surround mix or the slightly beefier 5.1 track will get the job done, with minimal use of directional effects outside of a few soundtrack tunes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This edition of Clueless is billed as containing a lot of "bling." (Of course, "bling" was not part of the vernacular a decade ago when the film was released, but, like, whatever.) The number and variety of featurettes on this disc seem impressive, until you actually watch them. There are a lot of generally disposable retrospectives from the cast, all gushing about how much they loved being on this set and what a great time they had making the film. Among the more interesting bits are those that feature director Heckerling more extensively. She appears briefly in almost all of the segments but makes her most important contributions to "Creative Writing" and "Language Arts." In the former she describes her efforts to create a world that could serve as a satire of high school life without belittling teenagers. In the latter she reveals the work that went into creating the unique slang dialect spoken by Silverstone's character and her friends. Both of these are amusing looks at Heckerling's creative process in creating the world of Clueless, but they are the only bright spots in a lot of fluff.
One featurette that mystified me was the one dealing with the game of "suck and blow," and what a challenge it was to get it to work on camera. Anyone who has actually played the game could have told the filmmakers what they were doing wrong: they somehow got the idea that the game was played using a credit card. Trust me; using a playing card (like you're supposed to) works a lot better.
There are a few interesting bits here, but for the most part the special features are so shallow and lightweight that one has to wonder if the people at Paramount believe the film's undeservedly vapid reputation.
"I think that Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it is true lightness."—Alicia Silverstone
That like totally says it all, doesn't it?
Not guilty! Clueless—"Whatever!" Edition is free to go.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
• The Class of '95 -- The Cast, Then and Now
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