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Clueless: “Whatever!” Edition DVD Review

Clueless: “Whatever!” Edition

January 14, 2006

Director: Amy Heckerling,
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Dan Hedaya, Breckin Meyer, Justin Walker, Wallace Shawn, Jeremy Sisto, Twink Caplan, Elisa Donovan, ,

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DVD Review

It’s amazing to think that Clueless (1995) is ten years old. This teenage remake of the Jane Austen novel Emma went on to influence what a generation of kids wore and said and launched the careers of several young actors. It presented a hyper-real world of Beverly Hills with a vibrant comic book colour scheme of yellows, reds and blues—a teen utopia where all of the various cliques co-exist peacefully. In its own way, Clueless has become a cult movie that its fans quote from religiously and watch repeatedly.

Cher (Silverstone) and her best friend Dionne (Dash) are rich, materialistic girls who make the new girl at school, Tai (Murphy), their new pet project. She’s a poster child for the Seattle grunge scene and they decide to transform her drab attire into their own colour fashion sense – boutique mallwear. Like Emma, Cher acts as matchmaker for those around her – Mr. Hall (Shawn) and Miss Geist (Caplan), two bookish teachers, and Tai and with Elton (Sisto), one of the most popular boys at their school. However, Cher is oblivious to her own romantic shortcomings: she sets her sights on Christian (Walker), a throwback to the Rat Pack era who turns out to be gay.

It’s a misconception to think that Cher is a dumb blond. On the contrary, she’s quite smart in some areas, like fashion and relationships (others and not her own). She speaks quite eloquently at times—amidst all the slang—she’s just a little naïve which comes from being a teen in such a rarified atmosphere.

Like Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) and Empire Records (1995), Clueless was a launching pad for much of its young cast: Brittany Murphy went on to do such diverse work like Riding in Cars with Boys (2001) and Sin City (2005). Donald Faison is a regular on the popular sitcom Scrubs. Paul Rudd has worked on independent films, TV (Friends) and appeared alongside Will Ferrell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). Breckin Meyer has become a reliable character actor (Kate and Leopold) while the film made Alicia Silverstone an even bigger star.

Amy Heckerling has crafted a very smart teen movie that pokes gentle fun at the popular culture of the time (most notably the grunge and big band music scenes) with an eclectic soundtrack that features the likes of Radiohead, Cyndi Lauper, No Doubt and Supergrass, much as her soundtrack for Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) did for the ‘80s.

As she demonstrated with Fast Times, Heckerling as a great ear for dialogue. Her script not only cleverly updates Austen’s Emma but also creates its own three-dimensional world with a specific dress code and slang (“Whatever”, “As if”, “Very”, “Buggin’”). The characters are fully realized with their own distinctive traits, way of speaking and look. They are all endearing in their own way, from Tai’s artistic skate Betty to Josh’s (Rudd) socially conscious college student. This explains one of the reasons why this film has endured after all these years and developed such a loyal following. Clueless presents a world that isn’t real but would be a nice one to live in and this creates a safe, comforting feeling that invites repeated viewings.

Clueless would go on to inspire and influence future smart teen movies like 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Bring It On (2000) and Get Over It (2001). But none of these films tapped into the pop culture zeitgeist quite as well. Will these films age as well and still be talked about and admired like Clueless? As the saying goes only time will tell.

Special Features:

This new special edition is a definite improvement over the previous incarnation that had no real extras to speak of and so for fans of this movie it is definitely worth the double-dip. Watching these new extras is like revisiting the cast ten years later to see what they’ve been up to. They are done in the style of and maintain the same tone of the movie which is a nice touch.

“The Class of ‘95” examines how the film was cast. Heckerling talks about how she picked the actors. For example, she saw Alicia Silverstone in the Aerosmith videos while Brittany Murphy, veteran of seven TV shows, had a natural New Jersey accent that was perfect for her role. The main cast members, except for Silverstone and Jeremy Sisto, are all back to talk about how their involvement.

“Creative Writing” takes a look at the film’s origins. The studio originally wanted Heckerling to write a TV show about an in-crowd group of teens but they didn’t get it so she changed it into a movie.

“Fashion 101” examines the memorable costumes from the movie. What Cher and her friends wore reflected the personality of each character and ended up influencing what kids subsequently wore.

“Language Arts” is a crash course on the film’s colourful slang. Heckerling had collected books and lists of slang over the years and incorporated it into the movie so that each character had their own way of speaking and favourite sayings that are now quoted endlessly by its fans.

“Suck ‘n Blow: A Tutorial” explains the party game that takes place in the film in an amusing featurette done during the production.

The challenge of shooting Dionne’s driving lesson on the Los Angeles freeway is explored in “Driver’s Ed.” It was a logistical nightmare with all kinds of vehicles coming at the actors so that their scared reactions were genuine!

“We’re History” features the cast and crew talking about what they think about the film ten years later. Not surprisingly, they are all proud of its legacy and how well it’s aged.

Finally, there is a teaser and theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 91%

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