Saturday, August 06, 2011

Netflix Queue Challenge: Clueless

I saw Clueless on video with friends in college not long after it came out, and I remember some of those friends being really into it and quoting it, and the entire soundtrack winding up on mixtapes, but I basically don't remember the movie itself at all. I remember enjoying it, but that's pretty much it. It's been on my list to rewatch for a long time, and was recently moved to the top after friends shamed me into it in that How can you not know Clueless ?? kind of way.

…And I sort of hated it. I know! I'm sorry!! This isn't me being contrary. I really wanted to like it! I assumed I would! I mean, I thought I already had once. Maybe you have to be a certain age when you see it? Maybe I actually didn't like it the first time and that's why I don't remember it?

Cher is sort of hateful. I kept waiting for her to get less so, assuming the point was that she started out awful and changed over the course of the movie, but no, she stayed pretty awful. The voiceover does not help this. She has good qualities: she's a good friend, she gives good makeover, she's not as dumb as she seems. But she remains such a brat throughout the movie, I really couldn't stand spending two hours with her. And I like Paul Rudd too much to want him to end up with her.

Mostly I was just bored. None of the famous quotes landed because I'd heard them a million times. Sometimes that results in an "Oh, that's where that's from!" or just a simple recognition of context, but here it made every other line feel totally artificial. (The one exception to this was "He's a disco dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding friend of Dorothy" which I'd totally conflated in my head with this moment from Will & Grace.)

I saw a musical version of Emma earlier this year that was completely charming. Emma is actually intended to be unlikeable (I looked the book up on Wikipedia), but at least in this version she grows a bit and by the end you root for her. In Clueless, I was rooting for a car accident. And I don't really want t criticize the adaptation, because I don't care about Jane Austen, combining Knightly and Churchill into one character makes no sense. [UPDATE: Read the comments to see me get thoroughly schooled on this point.] The whole movie felt to me like someone got stoned and said "Hey, let's update Emma!" but then didn't really bother to do it. It feels cobbled together from so many different high school movies and other bits and pieces, none of which really fit together to make much sense or tell a compelling story or - most egregious - to be very funny.

I'll stop now. I know I'm upsetting some of you. Trust me, I'm as disappointed in me as you are.


Mike said...

You make good points. I watched it a long time ago as a rental and thought it was better than I expected, but I don't know what I'd think now. I think I'd get annoyed by Cher too, since I'm an old grump now. :)

Alice said...

Although Clueless is one of my campy favourites (possibly because I loved it the first time I saw it in the 90s - no idea how it would stand up if I saw it for the first time today), I totally respect your right to dislike it.

However, Knightley and Churchill aren't merged into the same character - Josh is Knightley and Christian is Churchill.

Adam807 said...

Both characters do exist, yes, but Churchill is "Mr Weston's son by his previous marriage, an amiable young man who manages to be liked by everyone except Mr Knightley" (from the always-reliable Wikipedia). So Paul Rudd is both her sort-of-step-brother and the Knightly character (her critic who she ends up with. I just found it odd. Also a little creepy. I know they're not really related but the whole situation just seemed a little off, in a Greg and Marcia Brady kind of way.

Jan said...

I thought maybe they made Josh the step-brother because that seemed more plausible as a "why she didn't consider him but maybe could now" factor than giving him 15 years on Cher, which...probably would have had people pretty upset. Normal in the time of Emma, not so kosher nowadays (and since I think they made Cher 16, also not legal).

That being said, I also only sort-of liked Clueless.

Carrie Ann said...

I totally disagree that Josh is a combination of Knightley and Churchill. Mr. Weston is Emma's neighbor, not her father, so his son (Churchill) is not her step-brother. Just a new neighbor. So Christian is the new kid in school - same role, without the connection to a trusted neighbor.

I agree that they changed the Churchill character a bit in Clueless (Christian is charming in a sleazier way), but otherwise he plays the same role in the story. Josh has no characteristics of Churchill other than the "son of someone" connection. I think the only reason they made him Cher's former stepbrother is to have an excuse for him being at the house so often, and his closeness with the family. That's the level of closeness Knightley had with the Woodhouses, but it's just not common for neighbors these days, so they needed a better story. It also explains why Cher wouldn't see him as a love interest.

Sorry - I really love Emma in all its forms. :)

Adam807 said...

@Carrie Ann - Fair enough, and well analyzed. I think you're totally right. I still didn't like the movie though. :)