Twenty-six years ago today, the film Clueless premiered. If Jane Austen’s Emma was set in the mid-90s high schools and shopping malls of Beverly Hills, well, it is Clueless. You have to watch this movie.
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Produced by: Scott Rudin, Robert Lawrence
Written by: Amy Heckerling
Starring: Alicia Silverstone
Music by: David Kitay
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Edited by: Debra Chiate
Production company: Paramount Pictures
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: July 19, 1995
Running time: 97 minutes
Budget: $12 million
Box office: $56.6 million
Cher Horowitz lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father Mel, a $500-an-hour litigator; her mother died during a liposuction procedure when Cher was a baby. Cher is attractive, popular, and wealthy. She attends Bronson Alcott High School with her best friend, Dionne Davenport, who is also wealthy and beautiful. Dionne has a long-term relationship with popular student Murray; Cher claims that this is a pointless endeavor for Dionne.
Josh, Cher’s socially conscious ex-stepbrother, visits her during a break from college. They spar continually but playfully. She mocks his idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain and superficial, saying that her only direction in life is “toward the mall”. Later Cher plays matchmaker for two hard-grading teachers at her school, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist. She facilitates the relationship between the teachers to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad grade on her report card. After Cher sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she enjoys doing good deeds. Cher then decides to give back to the community by “adopting” a “tragically unhip” new girl at school, Tai Frasier. Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover, which gives Tai confidence and a sense of style.
Cher also tries to extinguish the attraction between Tai and Travis Birkenstock, an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her towards Elton, a popular and wealthy student. Elton rejects Tai and fails to seduce Cher. A handsome new student at their school named Christian becomes Cher’s target boyfriend; she invites him over to watch a movie at her place and tries to get closer to him, but he rejects her advances. Murray explains to Cher and Dionne that Christian is gay. Despite the failure of this endeavor, Cher remains friends with Christian, primarily due to her admiration of his taste in art and fashion.
Matters take a turn for the worse when Tai’s newfound popularity strains her relationship with Cher. Cher’s frustration escalates when she fails her driving test and cannot change the result. When she returns home, crushed, Tai confesses her feelings for Josh and wants Cher’s help in pursuing him. Cher says Tai is not right for Josh and they quarrel. Their disagreement ends with Tai calling Cher a “virgin who can’t drive”. Feeling “totally clueless”, Cher reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life.
After thinking about why she is bothered by Tai’s interest in Josh, Cher realizes that she loves him. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more purposeful life, including captaining the school’s Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. Cher and Josh eventually admit their feelings for one another, culminating in a tender kiss. Ultimately, Mr. Hall and Miss Geist wed; Cher’s friendships with Tai and Dionne are solidified; Tai and Travis are in love and Cher catches the wedding bouquet, helping Josh win a $200 bet. She embraces Josh and they kiss.