Clueless

on July 21, 1995 by Kim Williamson
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Originally and more catchingly announced as "I Was a Teenage Teenager," this loose adaptation of Jane Austen's "Emma" has MTV video ingenue Alicia Silverstone in the role of Austen's "handsome, clever, and rich" young woman--here named the more vogueish Cher and transported from Victorian England to tres-hip Beverly Hills. The novel's scheming, social-climbing antagonist is transformed into the less malevolent Tai (Brittany Murphy)--for that matter, Cher is handsome and rich, but hardly clever--which leaves the plot somewhat rudderless. As Cher's best girlfriend Dionne, Stacey Dash sparkles again but has even less to do than in "Renaissance Man."
   Like director/scripter Amy Heckerling's debut, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Clueless" is more a pastiche of storylines about a number of high schoolers, but here with a more central character and far less concern with narrative progression--best exemplified by Cher's out-of-nowhere realization that she loves ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd). Encapsulated, the key question for everyone in "Clueless" is, Will I be a social success?
   This all will play best with the young-teen crowd enamored of such lingo as "majorly" (very) and "as if" (no way); for real high schoolers, even with a soundtrack of Counting Crows and Lightning Seeds tunes, the film could come off as too juvenile. Other audiences, however, are likely to find this an amiable enough outing, thanks in almost complete part to Silverstone's magnetic presence onscreen. Starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash and Brittany Murphy. Directed and written by Amy Heckerling. Produced by Scott Rudin and Robert Lawrence. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sex-related dialogue and some teen use of alcohol and drugs. Running time: 97 min.
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