In 1995, I was at the impressionable age of 11 years old. I was the proud owner of baby tees, oversized plaid button up sweaters and had All 4 One’s CD on repeat on my discman. This was the same year that Amy Heckerling wrote and directed the iconic movie starring Cher Horowitz, aptly called Clueless. Heckerling set out to create a modern day version of Jane Austen’s Emma using spoiled teenagers as the characters set in beautiful and sunny Beverly Hills. Her vision has since become one of the most quintessential films of our time.
As If! The Oral History of Clueless as Told by Amy Heckling, the Cast, and the Crew was a book that popped up on my radar while listening to a podcast. The reviewer was clearly buggin’ over this book by Jen Chaney, acclaimed pop culture journalist. Her enthusiasm paired with my love of the 90’s had me immediately intrigued. Before I read the book, I decided to watch the film. I thought it was imperative that I familiarize myself with the old gang. It’s likely been about eight years since I last watched the film and I remembered every scene like it was 1995 all over again. I was instantly amused of Cher’s advanced computer programmed wardrobe and the way Cher, Josh and Mel ate dinner with their cell phones right next to their forks. There’s no doubt about it, this film was way ahead of it’s time in terms of technology.
Movie buffs love everything about the history of a film. They like to know who auditioned for roles. In this case, they’ll be interested to learn that the director always had Alicia Silverstone in mind for Cher after seeing her star in Aerosmith’s video:
But that didn’t stop Reese Witherspoon from trying out to play the role of Cher. Picture Ben Affleck in the role of Josh. Weird, right? While reading the chapter on the casting of Clueless it sounded like a gruelling and long process, but in the end it resulted in kickstarting the careers of many actors and actresses careers. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that many of the actors weren’t in their teens while filming. Stacey Dash, AKA Dionne, was twenty-seven while playing the best friend of sixteen year old Cher. There’s a part in the book where Donald Faison shares that he was at a mall and was excited to see a group of women pining over a celebrity in the mall. Straining to see who they were so excited about, he quickly realized that they were all riled up because of him. Overnight, the success of Clueless opened doors that had never been opened before for this group of actors.
The phenomenon of Clueless wasn’t just in the performances, it was in the details. Words like audi, boinkfest and monet, became words added to our dictionaries. Sure, it was 1995 and plaid was h-o-t, but costume designer Mona May took it to another level. Plaid skirts and trench coats paired with berets and knee socks changed the way people dressed. The book even went on to explore the impact it had on Coolio’s career. Don’t tell me you don’t hear ‘Rollin’ with the Homies’ and you don’t visualize Brittany Murphy’s pretty voice rocking out next to Elton. The movie went on to become a series of books and a television show starring much of the same cast, with Rachel Blanchard, taking over the lead character.
A movie of this magnitude stands the test of time, because the running themes throughout the movie are still revenant today, and it will still be relevant tomorrow and ten years from now. Sure, I don’t have a computer based program that tells me if my outfit is a match or a miss, but I have been faced with having spats with friends over men and who doesn’t remember falling in love for the first time in high school? These feelings and messages will always be present no matter how much smaller (or larger) our phones become over time. If you’ve ever been a teenager and you attended high school, this film will always matter. Jen Chaney has written a book that will take you back to 1995 and this time, you won’t be wearing a scrunchie.
BONUS There are so many fun facts packed into this read, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a few of my favourites with you:
- While Cher is at the Valley party, a couple is making out in the pool. The actors in that scene, who didn’t know one another, but were forced to make out for four hours, went on to marry one another.
- Paul Rudd’s former manager insisted he get the crew a parting gift when they wrapped the film. He bought every one a name plated rice necklace.
- Alicia Silverstone (who was in almost every scene of the movie), was so tired that she could fall asleep at the drop of a dime. She’d wake up to do her line and then instantly fall back asleep.