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Blu-ray Review: Clueless: 25th Anniversary Edition

July 14, 2020

By John Corrado

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days about how, despite the fact that Amy Heckerling directed two of the most iconic teen films of all time, she herself sadly isn’t really a household name in the same way that some other auteurs of adolescent cinema have become.

The first of the high school classics that Heckerling directed is the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, an ensemble character piece written by Cameron Crowe following a group of kids over several months of school in Southern California. The second is Clueless, which came out thirteen years later in 1995 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month with a new Blu-ray edition.

I just rewatched Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High over the weekend, and both films do an excellent job of showcasing how sharp Heckerling’s ability is (or was) to authentically capture the voices and feelings of American teenagers. Both films have the unique distinction of still holding up really well with their universal themes and instantly relatable characters, while also feeling like very specific representations of their respective eras, which is no small feat. Put simply, what Fast Times and the films of John Hughes were to the 1980s, Clueless is to the ’90s.

The story of Clueless is loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Emma, (which recently got a proper adaptation in the form of the delightful Emma., starring Anya Taylor-Joy). The main character is Cher (Alicia Silverstone), an affluent high school student living in Beverly Hills with her rich litigator father (Dan Hedaya). Cher is a bubbly go-getter who likes to be in control of everyone around her, with a circle of friends that includes her bestie Dionne (Stacey Dash) and new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy), whose grunge style makes Cher excitedly take her on as a “project.”

Cher fancies herself as a matchmaker, which includes setting up two of her teachers (Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan) and trying to find a cool boyfriend for Tai, but she is also struggling to navigate her own romantic life. The film’s memorable cast of characters includes Cher’s former stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd), a self-styled college intellectual who moves back in; her smooth and equally fashion-obsessed romantic interest Christian (Justin Walker), an exception to her rule about not wanting to date sloppy high school boys; and the scene-stealing Travis (Breckin Meyer), a likeable stoner who heavily channels Sean Penn’s Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Cher is pushy and self-centred but, like, in a well meaning way, and over the course of the film she must come to accept the fact that she is often just as clueless and helpless to the laws of attraction as everyone around her. Silverstone takes this character who could have simply been overbearing and makes her, well, loveable. Being herself a bright-eyed teenager at the time of shooting the film, who caught the attention of the filmmakers through her roles in Aerosmith music videos, Silverstone achieves this balance by consciously and unconsciously leaning in to Cher’s youthful naiveté.

Silverstone positively lights up the screen, perfectly embodying Cher’s mannerisms and speech patterns, and her performance is a big part of what makes Clueless so special and appealing. It’s the sort of star-making, breakout role that still feels like a revelation over two decades later. The film is, of course, also elevated by Heckerling’s incredibly witty and highly literate screenplay, which is filled with wonderfully sarcastic expressions of passive aggression (“as if,” “what-ever“), delivered by Silverstone in epic, eye-rolling fashion.

The film is chock full of dialogue and outfits, (Cher’s fabulous wardrobe is on point throughout), that permeated the pop culture landscape and still pop off the screen some 25 years later. The slang is so totally ’90s, and the cell phones have antennas, but Clueless still feels fresh. Watching it now feels like witnessing lightning that was captured in a bottle. Everything about it simply works. It’s as good as you remember and maybe even better, a sparkling, sublimely entertaining teen comedy that still delights with its sharp dialogue and has incredible replay value.

The Blu-ray also includes a solid selection of previously released bonus features, starting with the Clue or False Trivia Game, an interactive feature that offers pop-up trivia during the film. This is followed by seven very good featurettes; The Class of ’95, Creative Writing, Fashion 101, Language Arts, Suck ‘n Blow: A Tutorial, Driver’s Ed, and We’re History. Finally, the disc also includes the original teaser and theatrical trailer for the film. The content is the same as the initial Blu-ray edition that was put out in 2012, except with new cover art and the welcome addition of a digital copy code.

Clueless: 25th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 97 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: July 14th, 2020

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