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With: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, Wallace Shawn, Dan Hedaya, Justin Walker, Breckin Meyer
Written by: Amy Heckerling
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex related dialogue and some teen use of alcohol and drugs
Running Time: 97
Date: 07/19/1995

Clueless (1995)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Deceptively Smart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Amy Heckerling, Clueless is surely among the best teen movies ever made (and that list includes Heckerling's own 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High). By now the secret that the movie is based loosely on Jane Austen's Emma is out. This, of course, only enhances the movie's cleverness. Most film adaptations of great novels have an unbearable reverence toward the written page, and painstakingly attempt to recreate it, going so far as to design costumes and sets that evoke the period. But nine out of ten of these movies are dull failures, despite their good reviews and Oscar nominations. The reason they get respect is that the original literary source is so revered.

For my money, however, Clueless is the best of all the recent literary adaptations because it's fearless enough to borrow the theme from a great book and devilishly intertwine it with the vision of a smart filmmaker.

Alicia Silverstone stars in Clueless as Cher, our modern day version of matchmaker Emma. Her story is set in a Beverly Hills high school. What better place to set a story of class struggles? Cher is involved in normal high school activities: shopping, getting her driver's license, finding a boyfriend and, of course, matchmaking. And when a new student (Brittany Murphy) arrives, Cher and her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) take it upon themselves to convert her into an upper-class (read: cool) student.

Cher's father (Dan Hedaya) is dangerously whip-smart, as opposed to most movie dads, and we're spared the usual stock stupid jock bad guys. The conflicts are allowed to develop within complex characters. Clueless is a smartly written, cinematically alive, and very funny movie that elevates its genre.

In 2005, Paramount released a special "Whatever!" Edition of the film, with lots of featurettes on everything from the film's slang to its groundbreaking costume design. Some of the footage has been dug up from 1995, and some of it is new, though Ms. Silverstone is nowhere to be seen. There is also no commentary track. A Blu-Ray edition followed in 2012.

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