To me, Amy Heckerling is the true explanation why Clueless stays a work of popular culture iconography. That will not be too extraordinarily unique, particularly when stated at the eve of the teenager comedy’s 25th birthday. Since Clueless‘ release on July 19, 1995, the movie has maintained a top spot in the zeitgeist, a consistent and reliable wellspring for quotes, music, fashion, and discussion. It is hard to imagine what Clueless would be today if it had been written or directed by anyone other than Heckerling. I’m now not positive if I wish to even consider what that trade timeline would appear to be. Instead, I’d quite take you on a adventure highlighting the entire tactics wherein Heckerling’s imaginative and prescient of a ’90s teenager molded within the model of Jane Austen‘s Emma is, to nowadays, principally a masterpiece.
A snappy FYI: Clueless follows Beverly Hills teenager Cher (Alicia Silverstone), daughter of a outstanding legal professional (Dan Hedaya), who strikes during the international with the boldness of a tender lady upon whom the solar continuously shines. With the coming of recent lady Tai (Brittany Murphy), Cher and BFF Dion (Stacey Dash) take it upon themselves to offer their pal a makeover and assist steer her towards real love with some of the many eligible highschool boys at their college. Cher may be very just like her Austen counterpart, satisfied to pair up all of the international with out in reality figuring out the actual complexities of affection. Luckily, former step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd) is at all times round to offer her a much-needed fact take a look at as she tries (to various levels of good fortune) to deliver happiness into the lives of everybody round her.
Up till Clueless‘ release, Heckerling had dealt primarily in comedies with either male protagonists, male-dominated comedic sensibilities, or something more directly speaking to male anxieties both at home and socially. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Johnny Dangerously, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and the primary two installments of the Look Who’s Talking franchise making up the primary bankruptcy of Heckerling’s directing profession, which spans greater than 4 a long time. As a feature-length screenwriter, Heckerling had each Look Who’s Talking and the sequel, Look Who’s Talking Too, underneath her belt. Across the board, the films Heckerling wrote and directed sooner than Clueless have been primary successes, with the ones successes involving some aggregate of using the celebrity energy of a respective film’s main solid, seeing some great benefits of the film growing a cult following, and a few of the ones films (not all) playing the culmination of field place of job good fortune.
Clueless marks a noticeable shift in Heckerling’s profession — and it’s a captivating shift besides. Rather than operating to stake out belongings within the crowded territory of male-focused comedies directed by means of males (even if her efforts are rattling excellent), Heckerling grew to become her consideration to the sector of Southern California teenagers and, in particular, feminine tales. It’s a shift in ingenious focal point which might come to outline Heckerling’s paintings as a director from there on out, with Clueless arguably serving because the most powerful instance of Heckerling’s skill to mix her comedic voice with the tactics wherein girls’s lives are depiected onscreen, in all their multi-faceted glory.
The Clueless script was once born out of failed makes an attempt to capitalize at the good fortune of Look Who’s Talking Too, together with a script rejected by means of Disney for being “too smart,” main Heckerling to imitate her response — “And so I said, ‘All right, you want dumb? I’ll show you dumb…’” — in a 2017 profile at The Ringer. Heckerling additionally make clear the foundation for the tale whilst telling Interview in 2018 the historical past in the back of the deliciously savage “You’re a virgin who can’t drive” insult uttered by means of Tai overdue within the movie’s 2d act.
“I was writing a character that I thought was the very opposite of myself, a character that was really happy and if there was any negative criticism, she just didn’t take it seriously because she had confidence, and if her father was angry she thought he was just being cute. So I ran with that and just looked for sources of happy characters to get inspiration from. The two big things, of course, were Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  and Emma . My daughter just picked up Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the book, and was amazed at how wonderful it is.”
Heckerling’s script, rooted in those two books and later enhanced by means of quite a lot of on-set tweaks by cast and crew members, is one a part of why Clueless continues to be so loved to nowadays. Heckerling has now not handiest masterfully laid Austen’s Emma narrative onto the sector and lives of privileged Southern California teenagers within the mid-90s, however has controlled to superb song the twists and turns of that a lot older tale in order that not anything feels compelled or clunky. Even when Heckerling’s writing veers clear of keeping up its Emma parallels, it’s transparent she has hung out learning and dealing to grasp the slang and cadence of language used by the folk inhabiting that very particular time and position. Take the scene the place Cher is debating the “ensemble-y challenged” Amber (Elisa Donovan). There is such an consideration to element within the construction of Cher’s language that it tells you the whole thing you wish to have to find out about our protagonist, together with her distinctive outlook on lifestyles which can sooner or later information each choice she makes for the remainder of the film.
It handiest will get higher when Heckerling is in director mode. Heckerling’s script understands it’s vital to by no means make Cher or her buddies the butt of the shaggy dog story, despite the fact that they’re continuously being #ExtremelyTeenage in how they transfer in regards to the international of their singular point-of-views completed by means of their privilege and recognition. While in director mode, Heckerling constantly hammers this level house, showcasing jokes each visible and from the web page which spotlight the absurdities of Cher’s lifestyles and her day by day dramas: The laptop which is helping her put together an outfit, making ready for her date with Christian by means of making a lights scheme, flipping out a few doubtlessly ruined pair of dressmaker heels whilst attending a birthday party within the Valley, realizing she loves Josh as a large fountain involves lifestyles, and so on. with out taking the stance that Cher, her buddies, or her lifestyles is absurd. Heckerling’s course of the Clueless solid is helping pressure this house, too, with everybody setting up honest, nuanced paintings which is helping make the more strange, sharper, and darker comedy of Heckerling’s script simply as mild and stress-free.
Look, there’s now not an excessive amount of in the way in which of revelatory statements I will be able to say about Clueless which haven’t already been stated within the 25 years since its unlock. But, in interested by this film and what truly sticks out to me finally those years, I stay circling again to Heckerling’s contributions to this film. Hell, this is Heckerling’s film, via and thru. It’s the results of nice timing, a definite voice, a selection of generation-defining actors, song cues so easiest it hurts, and outfits so excellent it hurts much more — it all was once imaginable as a result of it all started with Heckerling and an concept according to Emma and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. To nowadays, Clueless is a film we recognize as reclaiming the “ditzy” narrative carried out to ladies for many years; it’s a ground-shaking access into the comedy style; it preserves the reminiscence of a bygone generation whilst protecting it totally obtainable to freshmen; it’s a ’90s teenager comedy regularly referenced, sourced, parodied, and paid homage to in other places in popular culture. The legacy of Clueless is cemented. Heckerling merits reputation for her paintings on Clueless, to nowadays and these types of years later. So give it to her.
Clueless is lately to be had to circulation on Netflix. Bonus: The Clueless 25th anniversary collectible Blu-ray and Blu-ray Steelbook will likely be launched on July 21 on your amassing excitement. For extra, take a look at our round-up of the most productive comedies on Netflix you’ll be able to watch at the moment.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can practice them on Twitter @_matineeidle.