Thursday, June 4, 2015

Before I Die # 545: Clueless (1995)

This is the 545th movie I've watched from the 1,169 movies to "See Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working my way through.

Director: Amy Heckerling

A fairly pleasant little surprise, and certainly a slice of pop culture from my formative years in the 1990s.

This is one of my wife's favorite movies, so she was able to fill me in on the interesting fact that this is a modern comedic adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. This alone piqued my interest a little more, and I was rewarded with a pretty clever and entertaining movie that I somehow had never previously seen.

The movie follows several months in the life of high school senior Cher, an obliviously wealthy and priveleged teen whose primary concerns are fashion trends, having her way, and occasionally helping those she deems "in need." The film unabashedly wears its place and time on its sleeve, from the fashion aesthetic to the soundtrack to the quirky slang. And few things say "mid-1990s" like Alicia Silverstone, the "It Girl" for a brief period. Fortunately, these dated elements do nothing to diminish the basic story and the humor of the film.

My wife informs me that the story is, indeed, a reasonable facsimile of Jane Austen's classic novel. Cher, like that book's protagonist, is a priveleged rich girl who actually does have a sense of goodness, though it takes her some time to get any kind of true sense of herself and the world around her. Her fumbling ditsiness still makes for some solid humor, even these 20 years after the film's initial release. The script holds up surprisingly well, with plenty of the supporting characters rounding out the  movie nicely. The cast has more than a little to do with this; a young Paul Rudd and Brittney Murphy feature, and veteran Dan Hedaya are just a few of the actors who nail their roles and lines.

Admittedly, I found some of the elements a tad sappy here and there, which is unsurprising for what amounts to a romantic teen comedy. Still, the movie never takes itself seriously enough to invite harsh criticism. The tale is amusing, if slightly familiar.

I have to confer the highest compliment that I can for a movie like this: I enjoyed it. Considering what it is, and the fact that I was expecting to find it a chore to watch, this is high praise.

That's 545 movies seen. Only 624 to go before I can die...