Clueless is a 1995 American comedy film very loosely based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma. It stars Alicia Silverstone in the lead role, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy. The film is set in the town of Beverly Hills and was written and directed by Amy Heckerling and produced by Scott Rudin, it was released in the United States on July 19, 1995.
Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is a good-natured but superficial girl who is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of the high-school social scene, and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father Mel (Dan Hedaya), a ferocious $500-an-hour litigator; her mother has long since died, having succumbed to complications while undergoing liposuction surgery. Cher's best friend is Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), who is also rich, pretty, and hip, and understands what it's like to be envied.
Among the few people to find much fault with Cher is Josh (Paul Rudd), her socially conscious ex-stepbrother who visits during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without malice; she refers to him as "granola breath" and mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain, and superficial, and says that her only direction in life is "toward the mall."
Illustrating that Cher's selfishness is usually innocent and relatively harmless, Cher plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard-grading teachers, Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink Caplan). She achieves her ostensible purpose—to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card—but when she sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she actually enjoys doing good deeds. Cher now decides that the ultimate way she can give back to the community would be to "adopt" a "tragically unhip" new girl at school, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the strong mutual attraction between Tai and Travis Birkenstock (Breckin Meyer), an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton (Jeremy Sisto), a rich snob whose father is a music-industry executive.
Her second matchmaking scheme backfires when Elton rejects Tai and makes a play for Cher. Matters worsen when Cher's "project" works a bit too well and Tai's popularity begins to surpass Cher's, especially after Tai has a "near-death" misadventure at the mall that helps to skyrocket her to fame at school. Other classmates, including Dionne's and Cher's longtime rival Amber (Elisa Donovan), soon gravitate toward Tai, and Cher finds herself demoted from queen to courtier at high school.
Events reach crisis stage after Cher fails her driver's test and can't "renegotiate" the result. When Cher returns home, crushed, Tai confides that she's taken a fancy to Josh and wants Cher to help her "get" him. Cher says she doesn't think Josh is right for Tai, and they quarrel. Cher, left all alone, begins to think she has created a monster in her own image. Feeling "totally clueless," she reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life. Most of all, she keeps thinking about Josh and Tai, and wonders why she cares so much.
After much soul searching (which includes a solo shopping spree around various Beverly Hills boutiques), Cher realizes she has fallen in love with Josh. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, even captaining the school's Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. A scene near the end of the film finds Cher and Josh stumbling over how to admit their mutual feelings for one another, culminating in a tender kiss on the stairs of her home.
The film has a happy Hollywood ending for Cher: Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married; her friendships with Tai and Dionne are reaffirmed and solidified; Tai and Travis are in love; and now, in Josh's arms, she too has finally found love.
Cast of charactersEdit
The film's central characters are:
- Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz: A spoiled but sweet Valley Girl type – though she actually lives in Beverly Hills. Living in a mansion, waited on by servants, and flaunting her wealth with fashion, she's the undisputed queen ofBeverly Hills High School. Cher is also tough and clever, like her father Mel. Cher convinces two of her teachers that each is a secret admirer of the other, negotiating her way from a C+ average to an A- average. Cher doesn’t have a regular boyfriend and she describes finding a boyfriend in high school as "being as useless as looking for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie." In an example of movie-production continuity failure, her surname is "Hamilton" on her report card, as is her father's when he tosses aside a piece of mail. She is based on the character Emma Woodhouse.
- Stacey Dash as Dionne Davenport: Cher’s best friend. Both she and Cher are rich and beautiful, but caring. Cher uses Dionne as her number one fashion critic. Dionne and boyfriend Murray (played by Donald Faison) have an extremely tumultuous relationship and are often quarreling (an inversion of the idealized relationship between Austen's Isabella and John Knightley). They undergo spats about Murray shaving his head and Dionne finding “cheap polyester hair” in the backseat of his car, but they also bond over Dionne’s first driving experience on the freeway, inspiring a wistful admiration in Cher.
- Brittany Murphy as Tai Frasier: The ugly duckling transformed into the beautiful swan. Cher and Dionne decide to give her a makeover. With a change of hair, makeup and clothing, Tai gains confidence and a sense of style. Originally Tai fell for skater Travis (Breckin Meyer), but Cher tried to set up Tai with “it boy” Elton to boost her popularity. After a “near-death experience” at the mall, Tai obtains an overly confident attitude that ultimately poses a threat to Cher's social status. She also develops a crush on Josh, and asks Cher to help her get him. By the end of the film, Tai regains Cher's respect and friendship, and begins to date Travis. This was Murphy's first major film role. She is based on the Emma character Harriet Smith.
- Paul Rudd as Josh Lucas: Cher's ex-stepbrother, as Mel had been married to Josh's mother five years earlier. Josh has ambitions to be a lawyer (his focus is environmental law), and during a college break comes for a protracted visit Cher and her father at their house; he claims that being around Mel is a "great learning experience." Throughout the film, Josh teases Cher, but at the same time shows his caring and concern for her. He is based on the Emmacharacter George Knightley.
- Dan Hedaya as Mel Horowitz: A gruff and successful workaholic litigator, he is constantly involved in big cases in Beverly Hills, where he lives with his teenage daughter Cher. Despite being divorced from Josh's mother, he tells his daughter "You divorce wives, not children" and is very protective of Cher, telling Christian: "If anything happens to my daughter, I've got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you." He is based on the Emma character Mr. Henry Woodhouse.
- Elisa Donovan as Amber Mariens: A popular spoiled brat who is despised by Cher and Dionne, she is in constant competition with Cher when it comes to style, popularity, and boys. Cher dubs her a "Monet" (just like the painting, "from far away it's okay, but up close it's a big old mess.") She is based on the Emma character Augusta Elton.
- Justin Walker as Christian Stovitz: Cher's love interest. To catch Christian's attention, Cher sends herself flowers, candies, and love notes. Christian finally attends a party with Cher. Cher plans a big night to finally "do it" with Christian, but he ignores her advances.
- Other characters