If you consider yourself a young adult, you probably won’t remember the best teen movies of the 90’s. Sure, you were born in the 90’s, but your teen movies were of the 00’s; Mean Girls, Easy A and, A Cinderella Story to name a few. However, if you really know your Wild Child’s from your Booksmart’s, you know that all these amazing films owe their fealty to what came before – the Rom Com of the 90’s. I give you Clueless.
Based on Janes Austin’s novel Emma, Clueless introduces us to many of the rom-com set-pieces that are now a bit of a trope. We open on our heroine, who fills us in on her backstory in the first person *ticks Mean Girls*, we then progress as she introduces us to the key players in our tale *ticks Easy A* who then go to play out a witty and well delivered five act comedy which ends with us all feeling pretty good about ourselves *ticks Booksmart*. However, though I love all these films, they pale in comparison to their matriarch and here is why; Cher, our heroine, is in on it all.
You see, unlike any other teen movie Cher lives just as much with the audience as she does in her own story. Though branded and ‘a Beverly Hills air-head’, by those around her, she is not a cruel Regina George fashionista – she is one of the most emotionally intelligent members of the cast. She sees those around her with a sense of clarity and dry humour – which tends to get lost in other teen movies, where the heroines inevitably end up as victims of their own drama. That doesn’t mean that Clueless is a film without soul, but it is a film that drags its humour from its self-awareness. Cher is a high schooler who is both vapid and caring and the cast that surrounds her is equally as nuanced which the film.
Unlike most teen movies, the main character isn’t just a straight man for the ‘witty friend’. Cher manages to be both the joke and the person who makes the joke. In a world where Hollywood still largely honours the mandate that only the female best friend can be funny, Clueless is a twenty-six-year-old breath of fresh air.
Speaking of the best friends, Clueless is not the only teen drama set in a California High School; Easy A, Booksmart and A Cinderella Story are all set in the sunshine state. But it still has the most diverse cast, despite being at least nine years older than its predecessors mentioned. This may have something to do with director Amy Heckerling, who spent a month in a Californian high-school to learn more about teens in the 90’s. As she clearly wanted Clueless to derive its humour from reality it would make sense to keep its cast as diverse as a Cali high school would be. But for whatever reason, this means that Clueless can live up to modern day expectation as well as entertainment.
Overall Clueless gets my seal of approval as an example of hilarious female writing, acting and direction. The story may be old, but the films wit and satire has a fresh feel that will feel new for a long time.
By Ella Spottiswood
Ella is a Freelance Director/Producer and the co-founder of Soldi Films. When she isn’t making, watching or talking about films, she is writing about them here!