Back to School Cinema: CLUELESS

cluelessJane Austen meets 1990s Beverly Hills in Clueless – Amy Heckerling’s take on the classic tale of matchmaking gone awry before a happy ending.

This 1995 movie starred Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash as the benevolent rulers of a Beverly Hills high school.  With snappy, smart dialogue it is reminiscent of screwball comedies of the 1930s.  Unlike some films of the same genre (and many of its imitators), it relies heavily on scenes at school and involves the students interacting with teachers.

Brittany Murphy plays the newcomer whose arrival sets many plans in motion while Elisa Donovan, Donald Faison, Jeremy Sisto, Breckin Meyer, and Justin Walker play fellow students. Paul Rudd’s performance as the older ex-step-brother of Silverstone helps anchor the film.  (He also keeps the ick factor from creeping in at the ending of the movie based on the character who becomes the object of his affection).  Julie Brown, Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan bring hilarity and heart to their roles as teachers.

As with Beverly Hills itself, this movie has a distinctive look.  The costumes by Mona May are exaggerated without becoming parodies.  Interesting, this movie is heavily dominated by females behind the camera.  It was written and directed by Heckerling.  Casting and editing were both led by women as well as two of the assistant directors and one of the film’s producers.

Appreciation or even familiarity with Austen is not necessary to enjoy this film.  It is literate, witty, smart, and fun.