The best part of watching a film decades after it originally debuted is that you can gain a fresh perspective. Clueless is one of those films that as a teen growing up in the ‘90s, I probably would have adored because it was so relevant, what with its beepers as fashion accessories and its actual fashion accessories, like platform sneakers, beaded chokers, and baby tees. Now, as an adult during what is nearly the film’s 20th anniversary, I can say that this flick was highly overrated.
One thing that does remain interesting, though, is the fact that even “ditzy” people were smarter than what we consider to be “dumb” nowadays. I was surprised that these girls weren’t as completely out-to-lunch as I had always assumed them to be. They’re not even really that stupid - they’re just updated versions of the ‘80s valley girl, portraying what it must be “really like” to go to high school in L.A.
If these girls had put more thought into their studies than their obviously expensive and complex outfits, or if they would have cared less about changing those around them and simply letting their peers be themselves for who they were, then these girls might have been forces with which to reckon - but then, they also wouldn’t make for believable “popular girls” either. And we also wouldn’t have been subjected to endless requests from our friends in high school to “make us over,” undoubtedly influenced by the popularity of this film.
The film does, however, get bonus cool points for featuring a David Bowie song (“Fashion”) within the first two minutes of the film. And Dan Hedaya does here what he always does best - acts so serious that it turns completely back around and makes him comical, giving him the hands-down funniest line (and delivery) of the entire movie when he tells daughter Cher’s (Alicia Silverstone) date, Christian (Justin Walker) that “no one would miss you” if he was forced to kill Christian for doing anything slimy with Cher.
The late Brittany Murphy’s role here as Tai was her breakout performance, and it’s always a bittersweet mixture of being enchanted with her and missing yet another star that died too young. She has a good handle on what sounded like a Brooklyn accent, though it fades in and out and would have been even more hysterical, endearing, and flat-out perfect had she kept it steady throughout the film.
Paul Rudd was a thing here even before Paul Rudd was a thing, which is to say that I remember my teen magazines falling all over him and my being like “who?” Though, it’s easy to see why, since that scene on the stairs near the end of the film is still enough to steal your breath, even all these years later.
Donald Faison looks like one of J.D.’s fantasy versions of him from Scrubs, and Cher watches cartoons like Beavis & Butthead and Ren & Stimpy for apparently no other reason than to be ‘90s relevant and to be on the receiving end of a quick quip from Rudd’s Josh. It is only in watching Clueless for the first time in the year 2014 that you realize just how much of a “fad film” this flick truly was.