Last Sunday, July 19th, marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the coming-of-age, teen film, CLUELESS. The surprise hit of the summer of 1995 opened in US cinemas opposite THE USUAL SUSPECTS and FREE WILLY 2: THE ADVENTURE HOME and mopped the box office floor with them, taking in almost as much as its US$12 million production budget in just five days. It lost the box office crown that week, however, to APOLLO 13, which opened a few weeks earlier. During its cinema run, the film went on to gross a very respectable US$56 million, which equates to almost US$95 million in 2020 dollars.
The film, which is loosely based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma, tells the story of a bunch of very privileged students at Bronson Alcott High School in Beverly Hills, California. (Amos Bronson Alcott was both an innovative educator and the father of Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.) In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past quarter-century, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is the ultra-popular maven of style here. (Today, she’d probably be a very successful influencer on social media.) The daughter of Mel Horowitz (Dan Hedaya, TV’s CHEERS), a $500 an hour litigator, Cher and her bestie, Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), are at the center of everything that’s in at the school. After Tai (the late Brittany Murphy) transfers to the school, Cher takes it upon herself to give the girl a much-needed makeover. Her plan to make Tai appealing to Elton (Jeremy Sisto, TV’s FBI; LAW & ORDER and SIX FEET UNDER), a fellow student who pines after Cher, backfires, though, when the new-and-improved Tai takes an interest in Josh (Paul Rudd, the AVENGERS and ANT-MAN films; PRINCE AVALANCHE; TV’s FRIENDS), Mel’s socially woke stepson from a short-lived marriage. Cher realises that she has feelings for Josh too.
Twenty-five years on, CLUELESS is still an absolute delight. Writer-director Amy Heckerling’s (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH; the LOOK WHO’S TALKING films; EUROPEAN VACATION) characters are exceptionally well fleshed out. Five minutes after meeting them, you will feel that you know what makes them tick. More than the writing though, the film features fabulous breakthrough performances from its young cast, many of whom went on to bigger and better things. Back then, who knew Donald Faison (TV’s SCRUBS) and Breckin Meyer (the GARFIELD films)… or Paul Rudd, for that matter?
Of course, CLUELESS is also remembered for two other things: First, it introduced the world to such classic ’90s slang and pop-culture references as “As if!”, “a total Baldwin” (I’m sure the Baldwin brothers loved that one), “a Betty”, “a Monet” and “totally buggin'”. Second, were the iconic fashions, many of which wouldn’t look too out of place even today. Costume designer Mona May said that Cher had 63 outfit changes. Silverstone apparently kept them most of them after shooting wrapped up, including the yellow plaid Jean Paul Gautier number, but later gave them away.
If you haven’t seen CLUELESS yet or if it’s been 25 years since you have, definitely check it out (again). It’s a hoot!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, July 31st, 8:30 am HK time!
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