"So, OK, you're probably like - what is this, a Noxzema
commercial? First words of "Clueless" That's exactly what I was like.
The hand-held camera was tilting crazily, showing the sun-blessed teenagers of
Southern California, and I'm like - what is this, an MTV video? Then Cher says
the line and breaks the ice. Not Cher who won the Oscar. Cher, the heroine of
this movie. A little later, she explains that she and her friend Dionne
"were both named after great singers of the past that now do infomercials."
(She adds, "She's my friend because we both know what it is to have people
be jealous of us.") "Clueless" is a smart and funny movie, and
the characters are in on the joke. Cher (Alicia Silverstone), who lives in a
mansion and looks like Cybill Shepherd, is capable of lines like, "Why
learn to park when every place you go has a valet?" But she puts a little
satirical spin on them. She is one of the most totally self-absorbed characters
in a movie since the heroes of "Wayne's World," and yet she isn't a
victim, and we get the idea she will grow up tough and clever, like her dad
a big-time lawyer, a litigator who is always working on big cases. In most
movies like this, he would therefore be a blundering, insensitive oaf with a
microscopic IQ. Not here. He knows everything that's going on, cares for his
daughter, is protective of her, and tells a kid taking her out on a date:
"If anything happens to her, I got a .45 and a shovel. I don't think
you'll be missed." Also looking out for Cher is her stepbrother (Paul
Rudd) by one of her dad's earlier marriages. Family trees have many branches in
and Dionne live in Beverly Hills and go to one of those high schools where the
students look like they've posed for the cover of Sassy. They have
longsuffering teachers such as Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink
Caplan), who both give Cher bad grades.
is not discouraged. She knows that happy teachers give higher grades, and
convinces each teacher that the other is a secret admirer. "You negotiated
your way from a C to an A?" her dad asks.
I couldn't be happier than if they were based on real grades." Cher
doesn't have a regular boyfriend. Then she gets a crush on a new kid named
Christian (Justin Walker) and explains the wiles she will use to capture him.
At the same time, she persuades Dionne (Stacey Dash) to help her increase the
popularity of a hopeless new girl named Tai (Brittany Murphy). She explains her
party strategy: Pretend to be having a good time, pretend not to notice the guy
you're interested in, and laugh and dance a lot. Also, "sometimes you have
to show a little skin. This reminds guys of being naked, and then they think of
sex." The movie was written and directed by Amy Heckerling, who made
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982). This film, about different
kinds of kids in a much different kind of school, is much better. But like the
earlier film, which introduced Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates,
Forest Whitaker and Judge Reinhold, it may make some stars.
Silverstone and Stacey Dash display the knack of suggesting that their
characters are not limited by their airhead dialogue and teen queen behavior.
They talk that way, and do those things, but with a sly humor that suggests
they're putting themselves on. ("What'd you do in school today?"
"Broke in my purple clogs.") And their motives are essentially pure.
They want to help out poor Tai because she doesn't have a clue. After they have
completed their makeover of her face and wardrobe and given away all their
boy-catching tricks, Tai becomes popular and not very nice. And in the way the
girls handle this development, they reveal some quiet insights.
movie is aimed at teenagers, but like all good comedies, it will appeal to
anyone who has a sense of humor and an ear for the ironic.
walks a fine line between satire and put-on, but she finds it, and her dialogue
could be anthologized. You have to like a movie with lines such as:
"Searching for high grades in high school is like searching for meaning in
a Pauly Shore movie." Or this excuse in P.E. class: "My plastic
surgeon doesn't want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose."
The answer to that, which cannot be printed here, may be worth at least a third
of the price of admission, all by itself.