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Emmas of Yore:Clueless

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Feb 22 2020

The Emmas of Yore: "Clueless"

To celebrate the release ofEmma, let'srevisit the novel's previous iterations in film history. First up, the case of Amy Heckerling'sClueless(1995)

byCláudio Alves

From 1940 to 1995, no motion picture was made with a screenplay based on any Jane Austen novel. There were some negligible low-budget miniseries along the way, but nothing major. Then came the 90s and everything changed. In 1995 alone, the world got to enjoy the pleasures of Roger Michell'sPersuasionand the lavish TV adaptation ofPride & Prejudicewith Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Most importantly,Cluelesshappened, effectively showing that Jane Austen was cool and igniting the Hollywood trend of filming great tomes of classic literature reimagined as modern teen movies…

While 1995'sPersuasionandPride & Prejudiceare wonderful achievements they also set a precedent for seeing Jane Austen through the lenses of romantic dramas, inherently prestigious and a bit serious-minded too.Clueless, on the other hand, understood that Austen's work is essentially social satire by means of comedic folly. Those books are full of biting wit and ridiculous people, razor-sharp reflections of social mores, and endearingly record the games of casual tête-à-tête and its curated idioms. When those things are covered by the patina of prestige-focused historical reproduction, their essence can get lost amongst frills and neoclassic buildings.

Stripping away the razzle-dazzle of Regency-era finery, writer/director Amy Heckerling allows the novel's more abrasive and funny qualities to shine through. The stilted cadences of 19th-century conversations are no more artificial than the MTV-era slang of the American teenager, for instance. Similarly, the self-centeredness of Emma Woodhouse is only made more obvious when played by Alicia Silverstone's Cher Horowitz. The themes of class and money are also inescapable when the story is set among the teenage children of Beverly Hills' wealthy elite, their lack of self-awareness as grating as it is hilarious.

If not for the candy-colored costumes and constant stream of jokes,Cluelesscould be too nasty for its own good. Still, the genius of both Heckerling and Austen lies in the precious balance between mockery and affection.Cluelessis never afraid to make its characters seem absurd but it does this while also celebrating them. The movie positively vibrates with love for the silly teens, helped in no small part by across-the-board charm from an unimprovable cast (where was their SAG Cast nomination?). Thus, the bitter aroma of cynicism never features in the literary recipe or the cinematic one, resulting in a fanciful narrative dessert that's sweet but also filled with intelligent observations, wit and colorful characters we'll never forget.

What's your favorite quote fromClueless's pitch-perfect screenplay?

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Reader Comments (23)

love this idea for a series! 1995 was also the year of the lee / thompson sense & sensibility

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterCharles O

I mean the back-and-forth about being a "Monet" is probably my favorite exchange. But for a single line, it's probably: "He does dress better than I do - what would I bring to the relationship?".

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterScottC

阅读本系列的标题和简介我knew this would be a Claudio piece. Ugh your mind. <3 You the MVP boo xo

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterPenny

Plus a great soundtrack!

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz is my favorite comic performance from 1995.

The moment that makes me laugh is the way she says: "Oops, my bad"

I haven't watched the movie in many years so, i don't remember more quotable lines in this moment, I guess it would be great to watch it again but ... Whatever

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

So in the category of Movies That Instantly Make You Smile, Clueless has to be a top 5 entry. My favorite exchange is probably Tai’s makeover. “That takes care of our minds and bodies, but we should do something good for mankind or the planet or something.” Lol

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Wow. I have watched Clueless about 3 times and am now up for a 4th. I don't know Jane Austen, and never knew Clueless was based on that. I just thought it was a very funny and bright movie.

My favorite line (paraphrasing). Cher walks downstairs to tell her dad that she's leaving for a party. She is wearing a very short dress. Her dad says "what in the world are you wearing". Cher says "it's a party dress". Her dad says "Says who?" Cher answers "Calvin Klein". Her dad says "It looks like underwear."

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterrrrich7

Cher’s dad Mel (Dan Hedaya) to Cher’s date:

“Anything happens to my daughter, I’ve got a .45 and a shovel, and I doubt anybody would miss you”.

How did “Clueless” not win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay? Not even get nominated?

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenteradri

"Why am I even listening to you? You're a virgin who can't drive."

"Rolling with the homies."

The absolute best teen movie ever made.

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

不仅仅是有史以来最好的青少年电影,但之一the best movies ever made, period.

"It does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty."

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterjules

"Get out of my chair!"

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Silverstone Is Julia Level In This.

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

"He's a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket holding friend of Dorothy's."

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Tai: "Shit you guys, I've never had straight friends before"

Amber: "We're going to Melrose"

Cher: "Do you prefer the term fashion victim or ensembley challenged?"

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterknopewecan

“You into Billie Holiday?”

“I love him”

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterZach

The one that gets the most use out of me, even to this day, is "I totally paused!"

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterstarlit

"I totally paused"

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterTravis

“I hope not sporadically” and Silverstone’s line reading of “Calvin Klein.”

It’s just nuts that Silverstone didn’t get a golden globe nomination for her performance. This also would have been a great contender for a screenplay win.

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterJoe G

“there goes your social life”

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterpar

Does this mean we won’t get a totally buggin’ 25th anniversary retrospective this summer?

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterMareko

There was a line about her comment about guys wearing those baggy pants as saying "I don't to be a traitor to my generation or anything but..."

I don't remember the exact quote but what she said about the fashion of the 90s is now so smacked on. Fashion has gotten much worse now.

February 22, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Truly one of the great screenplays (comedic or otherwise) and I don't care what anybody says.

February 23, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

"Way harsh, Tai" - always a Classic!

February 23, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterleigh

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