MOTW: "Clueless" Continues to Provide Lasting Laughs

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Cher is a good-natured but superficial girl who is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of the high-school social scene, and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
September 9th, 2013

MOTW: "Clueless" Continues to Provide Lasting Laughs

In 1815, Jane Austen decided to stray from her normal style and write a novel about a young woman in genteel society. "Emma" was about a privileged young woman who lived on a fictional estate with her father. As she had no financial concerns like Austen's previous heroines, her main pastimes were matchmaking and interfering in the affairs of others. In a loosely adapted update to "Emma," 1995's "Clueless" portrayed a rich, spoiled girl from Beverly Hills who, like Austen's character, often found herself meddling in other's affairs in an attempt to cure her boredom.

As the film begins, Cher and Dionne are best friends, and they're perfect examples of students in a school that seemingly cares more about social hierarchy than learning. They soon find themselves in a position to improve their grades through some clever matchmaking. This works out in their favor, so Cher decides she may have found her calling. Unfortunately, Cher's attempts at future matchups don't work out exactly as she planned, and she finds herself on the verge of being alone despite her best efforts.

Like most movies in this genre, everything works out exceptionally well for the main characters in the movie, and the film ends with Cher catching the bouquet at the wedding of the same couple she introduced in the beginning. It is her personal growth that makes the character of Cher more familiar to audiences. When Jane Austen wrote "Emma," her concern was that readers wouldn't identify very well with her titular character. The character of Cher faces some of the same issues at the beginning of "Clueless." She is presented as a spoiled brat who always gets her way, and she seems to concern herself only with shopping, fashion, and blatant materialism. As the movie progresses, she decides to give newcomer Tai—played exceptionally well by Brittany Murphy—a much needed makeover.

Later in the movie, she shows genuine concern for her father's law firm, and she even volunteers to help the victims of a fictional disaster in Pismo Beach. Viewers who may not feel much sympathy toward Silverstone's character at the start of the film discover that she actually has a big heart and is willing to help those in need. It also helps that Cher makes some hilarious mistakes as a result of her sheltered upbringing, which further creates feelings of supportiveness and understanding among moviegoers.

The roles played by Brittany Murphy and Paul Rudd add to the relatable nature of this movie, and their comedic performances are exceptional. Murphy's character is the new girl at a new school, and her outrageous portrayal of the slightly clumsy but incredibly cute Tai goes down as one of the best in her career. Rudd plays the role of Josh, Cher's ex-stepbrother who always seems to be around. He presents a fun, grounded counterpoint to Cher's flamboyant personality. The witty repartee between the two signals the beginning of Rudd's career playing the smart aleck with a heart of gold.

Some of the other actors who appear in the film are recognizable today, and that helps current viewers relate to "Clueless." Stacey Dash went on to play her character, Dionne, in the television series based on the movie. She has since appeared in numerous other series and movies. Donald Faison, who played Dionne's boyfriend, Murray, also starred in the television version of the film and portrayed the loveable Christopher Turk on "Scrubs" from 2001 to 2010. Other notable actors who are still performing today include Jeremy Sisto, Breckin Meyer, and the always-recognizable Wallace Shawn. It's a testament to the movie's lasting popularity that so many great performers played early roles in "Clueless."

Jane Austen wrote the novel "Emma" in 1815, and heroine Emma Woodhouse withstood the test of time as a literary favorite. A number of film and television adaptations of the original work were made, but the loose adaptation "Clueless" is one of the most widely liked. It tells a similar version of Austen's timeless story, but it is updated to appeal to younger people unfamiliar with the original. It gives the main character the chance to redeem herself and appreciate some serious things in life. It also offers her the ability to find love during her journey.

"Clueless" gives moviegoers the chance to see a number of young actors in some of their earlier comedic roles as well, and it holds an enduring place in the hearts of viewers.