Clueless: Pinnacle of the 90s

Clueless: Pinnacle of the 90s

Bring on the plaid!

Yesterday as I was flipping through the channels I happened to land on Clueless just as it started. It had been so long since I had seen it, and - even though I am not typically given to "chick flicks" - it really is such a charming movie. I watched the entire thing the whole way through, commercial breaks and all. It was like literally being transported back to the 90s, but with full knowledge of the present-day celebrity scene.
Clueless was certainly a high water mark in 90s culture. It captured and both lauded and skewered the fashion scene among upper-class Beverly Hills high school girls. (It also provides much grist for the discussion of class lines versus race lines: many white kids are on the outs, but Cher's best friend is black. Class is the true unspoken divide in American culture, and it is never more richly illustrated than in Clueless.)

This re-telling of Jane Austen's novel "Emma" was practically a factory for celebrities of the 2000s and today. It launched the career of Alicia Silverstone, of course. (Alicia has since gone bonkers and feeds her toddler pre-chewed food directly from her own mouth, as birds do.) It also featured Brittany Murphy (who is virtually unrecognizable in brunette curls), Paul Rudd, Breckin Meyer, Donald Faison (best known for his role as Turk on Scrubs), and Dan Hedaya (famous for playing Nick Tortelli on Cheers), Jeremy Sisto, Wallace Shawn and more.

(Clueless may also mark the last time in popular culture when a girl wore a "cute outfit" built around a pair of overalls - to a party, no less!)
 
It would have been easy for Clueless to be Yet Another Shallow Teen Movie. But the script - and the source material - elevates it above the masses. Beyond the snappy dialogue, the dry wit, and the hilariously precise outfits (at one point Cher manages to masterfully display, in front of her entire class, the fact that even her bubble gum matches her outfit) what you have is a story about a teenage girl who acts overly competent and in control in order to mask her own uncertainty about herself, her sexuality, and the process of growing up. 
 
The movie lets Cher be smart, too, which I appreciate. Even if the character chooses to use her intelligence in dubious ways, it's clear that Cher is a crafty, observant, and strong-willed girl: a true self-rescuing princess.