There are a few films which define a generation. The Wizard of Oz speaks to those born 1922 -1945, a group which survived not just the Great Depression, but also World War II. For the Boomers, those born post-World War II, they have 1969’s Easy Rider, an emblematic symbol of the Free Love generation. For this reviewer, films like Ghostbusters, The Goonies, and Back to the Future typify the kind of worldview of a Millennial: often down-and-out, but ever resilient. Which brings us to the ‘90s, an era just outside of the excess of the ‘80s that looked toward the future will a curious optimism. Perhaps this is why Clueless, the Amy Heckerling-directed modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, remains as entertaining today as it was upon its first release in 1995: it’s a time capsule of that youthful viewpoint wherein everything seems possible because we’re too naïve to know differently. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of its release, Paramount Pictures is dropping two new editions of the film for home viewing: a standard Blu-ray/digital combo and a limited edition Steelbook in the fashionable stylings of Alicia Silverstone’s Cher.
For the unfamiliar, this modern take on Emma features Cher as the title character living in Los Angeles, attending high school with her best friend, Dionne (Stacey Dash), D’s boyfriend Murray (Donald Faison), and her nemesis Amber (Elisa Donovan). Sitting comfortably near the top of the popularity pyramid at her school, she takes it upon herself to bring new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) under her wing, showing her which people Tai should avoid — like Breckin Meyer’s stoner skater Travis — and who she should get to know — like Jeremy Sisto’s charming Elton. When not at school, she takes care of her litigator father Mel (Dan Hedaya), who often works from home and gets annoyed by her frequently-visiting former step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd).
Considering the age of the film and its acceptance within popular culture, the following will not include a review of the film as no one needs to hear another male opinion on Heckerling’s adaptation. That said, it’s important to note that like all the other adaptions of Emma, what makes Heckerling’s approach equally timeless is how perfectly ‘90s it is. From the fashion to the music (including using the actual The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in a scene), Clueless perfectly preserves an era in all of its beauty and ridiculousness. Additionally, the film itself is fairly modern for its time as Dash’s Dionne and Faison’s Murray don’t fall into the trap of the Token Black Friend so many films can’t help but utilize. Not only are Dionne and Murray two of many Black characters in Clueless, neither are present to service Cher’s story as they have their own. Though Murray does use quite a bit of slang which might make him seem stereotypical for the time, Heckerling’s script offers opportunities to show that Murray is not the stereotype he presents to be. The film is very much set within the wealthy areas of Beverly Hills, so it’s not likely that the lifestyle Murray and his friends emulate is something they’ve personally experienced, yet none of what they do or say is treated as anything more than an exploration of their culture and community. Each character, from central to tangential, is given an opportunity to demonstrate growth or change, through it’s done more clearly for those directly connected to Austin’s story: Elton as the replacement for Mr. Elton, Travis as the replacement for Mr. Martin, Josh as the replacement for Mr. John Knightley, etc. Frankly, as far as adaptations go of classic literature, Heckerling’s Clueless nails the essence and importance of the story, creating a film that remains as entertaining and heartfelt today as it did in 1995.
As far as special features, this is where the releases are a bit of a bummer. While both versions of the home release do include over an hour of material including an interactive “Clue or False” trivia game, a “Suck ‘n Blow” tutorial, original trailers, a fantastic behind the scenes featurette titled “The Class of ’95,” and more, there’s nothing new beyond the container. This may disappoint owners of previous editions that the only up-sale is the packaging, but for fans of Clueless that never picked up a copy, it’ll feel like new. Going into any kind of purchase consideration, it’s just important to know where things stand for any new home release. Admittedly, as great as these features are, for a 25th anniversary release, one would hope for some kind of new retrospective with the principle cast or crew who are still with us. If I may, for a moment, there is something truly sorrowful of watching Clueless knowing that Murphy is no longer with us. Her performance as Tai endears the character to the audience quickly and signifies what an incredible talent Murphy was. Her loss is something that continues to resonate today. While new bonus material would likely acknowledge the loss, it would certainly be nice to hear what the principles think of the legacy of Clueless so many years later.
Clueless Special Features
- Clue Or False Trivia Game
- The Class of ’95 (18:31)
- Creative Writing (9:40)
- Fashion 101 (10:47)
- Language Arts (8:10)
- Suck ‘N Blow: A Tutorial (2:48)
- Driver’s Ed (3:50)
- We’re History (8:52)
- Two (2) Trailers
Available in Blu-ray/digital Steelbook and Blu-ray/digital Combo on July 21st, 2020.