If you haven’t read Emma by Jane Austen, you should know that this film is its most faithful adaptation. Not this one nor this one and definitely not this one. Really. Emma may feature 19th century tropes of love, but its more compelling attribute is that Austen is following the story and development of someone too easily written off as not worthy of serious consideration — a more timeless trope. Director Amy Heckerling recognizes this theme and seamlessly blends it into the present day, care of the Beverly Hills High class of 1995. Even though Cher is a valley girl, who only talks in upspeak? She comes across as a person, with whom viewers end up identifying and — gasp! — taking seriously. Of course, there’s all the other stuff too—ridiculous slang, killer outfits, that “Rollin’ with My Homies” scene (R.I.P.). If nothing else, you’ll get some great insults out of the script — even if they don’t quite apply.
Beyond just Urban Outfitters merch and Iggy Azalea videos, though, Clueless does have something to say. Not to sound like I’m a million years old, but it feels like just yesterday I was a high school girl myself and movies that treat teenage girls as humans are refreshing, even if the characters in question are received as parodies of themselves. If we’re going the satire route, then this film still has plenty to offer, shedding light on materialism and lack of worldliness in high school students (which it achieves, of course, by being shamelessly clever).
I’m a sucker for taking things at face value, though, and I’m more than happy to accept Cher as not a trope but a person, a slightly misguided but well-meaning teenage girl, one who slowly becomes less selfish but will never underestimate the value of retail therapy. I mean, as if!
dir. Amy Heckerling
Part of the ongoing series: Rewind!