Twenty years ago, a low-budget teen movie called ‘Clueless’ was released with little fanfare and turned into a surprise hit.
Twenty years ago, a low-budget teen movie called Clueless was released with little fanfare. The modern take on Jane Austen’s classic Emma became a surprise hit. Girls wanted to dress like the heroine, Beverly Hills princess Cher (Alicia Silverstone), and the new “IT” phrase was “As if!” The cast, including Silverstone, Donald Faison and Paul Rudd, launched long-term careers.
Today, the film is still a major part of pop culture. Iggy Azaelea‘s “Fancy” video is a shot-for-shot remake of several of its key sequences. A new book, As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew, details the production of the movie. Cher and Dionne’s (Stacey Dash) giant cellphones with antennas mark this a film from the 1990s, but the witty dialogue and, fabulous fashions make Clueless timeless. Here are five scenes from the film that are as funny today as they were in 1995.
Cher’s Oral Report
Cher’s winning combination of emotional intelligence and academic ignorance is established early in the movie when Cher delivers an oral presentation on the plight of Haitian refugees, or, as she calls them, Hate-ee-ans. Instead of using facts to express her opinion that an unlimited number of people should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S., she delivers an anecdote about a time more people showed up to her party than she expected, concluding that she had fun anyway. In her words, “There is no RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.” She may not know how to pronounce the subject of her report, but she managed to make her point. Since Cher thinks everyone she knows needs her help, the scene reveals to the audience that, though she seems superficial, she has a big heart.
The Val Party
The party in the unfashionable San Fernando Valley that Cher and her crew attend is a cornucopia of delights. From Tai (Brittany Murphy) pining for Elton (Jeremy Sisto) while the oh-so-romantic Coolio song “Rollin’ With My Homies” plays, to the bizarre dance moves that the entire party seems to know, to Murray shaving his head in an attempt to look “street,” the hilarity never stops. Part of what makes the sequence so funny are all of the little details that are happening in the background, unnoticed by the central characters, like the guy who barfs in the swimming pool and the giant candy canes that keep falling over. The conversation at the end of the party in which Cher and Elton discuss various driving routes back to Beverly Hills just might be the subconscious inspiration for Saturday Night Live‘s recurring “The Californians” sketch.
Cher Confesses That She Is A Virgin
Cher is the most wholesome popular girl in teen movie history. She has far less sexual experience than her sidekicks. The scene where she tells Tai that she is still a virgin, or, as Dionne puts it, “hymenally challenged” is a masterpiece of visual double entendre. While the girls talk about their relative levels of sexual experience, they munch on giant phallic breadsticks. “I like ’em big,” says Dionne, ostensibly referring to her bread. The climax, as it were, is Tai chewing on a baked good that is bent in half while discussing guys who are “crooked.” The scene also contains one of Cher’s classic lines: “You know how picky I am about shoes and they just go on my feet.”
Cher’s Driving Test
The great mystery of Clueless is why Cher’s father never hires a driving instructor for his daughter. She spends half the movie breaking traffic rules and nearly getting into accidents. Her reign of vehicular terror ends when she takes her driving test. Accustomed to charming her teachers into giving her higher grades than she deserves, Cher finally meets her match in a Department of Motor Vehicles employee. Distracted by the realization that she’s attracted to her stepbrother, Josh, Cher drives in two lanes at once, nearly hits a bicyclist and clips a parked car. She laughs off the damage she caused with a “My bad.” She is shocked when he tells her she has failed. She attempts to change his mind, but none of her strategies work. Cher resorts to demanding to speak to his supervisor. He responds with the epic burn, “As far as you’re concerned, I am the messiah of the DMV.”
Cher’s Sad Walk Down Rodeo Drive
There is a screenwriting term, the “all is lost moment,” in which the hero of the story has failed in their quest and contemplates giving up. Cher’s low point is not all that low. Having lost her queen bee status to Tai and failing her driving test, she sadly walks down Rodeo Drive while “All By Myself” plays in the background. The luxurious surroundings and bright sunshine make her angst hilarious. In voiceover narration, she questions everything about her life, ultimately coming to the conclusion that she is clueless. Then, as she passes a store window and sees a mannequin wearing a pretty dress, she contemplates another profound issue: “I wonder if they make that in my size?”