I’m sure that’s what some people would have thought when they’ve finished watching this on A&E or the film version starring Gwyneth Paltrow that came out around the same time. Clearly, Clueless was still fresh in my mind when I settled in to watch Kate Beckinsale as Emma, the sixth of seven films in Masterpiece Theatre‘s Complete Jane Austen. My sister and I were figuring out which characters in Emma translated into Clueless. We observed that one of them that didn’t seem to cross over was Jane Fairfax (possibly because the secret engagement thing can’t work in a high-school context). We also mocked that secret engagement between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax (played by Olivia Williams, who eventually played Austen in Miss Austen Regrets), at least in terms of how the film gave subtle hints of that before it was finally revealed. Example: Emma and Frank were flirting and talking about Jane, who was seated across and away from them. There was one shot with Frank catching a glance at Jane; it’s framed in such a way that it’s just the two of them in shot, with Jane slightly out of focus.
I liked Kate Beckinsale’s portryal of Emma. She exhibits that emotional range that would be required for Austen heroines, from flirting with Frank to the abrupt surprise of Elton’s proposal, and then with Knightley’s dressing-down at Box Hill. I think she really was at her element in her scenes with Knightley. There is that almost-familiarity of being siblings-in-law, but I cringed a bit when he told her about holding her as a baby… before they kissed. Overall, this Emma‘s good; there’s a lot to recommend it, and a good choice for Jane Austen City Limits. 9/10
I think I’ve already mentioned that I love my new HD-PVR. So imagine my luck when I saw Clueless in the guide listings. I thus put it on record (it aired at an ungodly hour) and settled in to watch it when I would have watched something Austen-like on Masterpiece Theatre – not sure why PBS broke it up their Austen season like that.
I don’t know why I’ve avoided this film for so long; my sister had the VHS. And even after I learned that it was a modern retelling of Emma, I still didn’t watch it. But better late than never, so the saying goes.
As I watched Clueless, I marveled at two things. The first is how well I managed to pick out the Austen parallels, despite the fading memory from the last time I read Emma. Writer/director Amy Heckerling did a great job pulling in the plot elements and seamlessly dropping them in that harsh world known as high school. That leads me to my second point: the film is so quintessentially of the 1990s. I was just transported back to the time of grunge wear, skateboards, the swing craze, and a few songs I haven’t heard in a while.
I think Alicia Silverstone carried this film in her role of Cher. She had the right touches to take those varying elements of Emma Woodhouse’s character (the gleeful matchmaking, the concern over her father’s well-being, and the jealousy over Tai’s crush over Josh and her subsequent realization why) and create a convincing character that we can’t help but like. And the wide range of outfits didn’t hurt either…
I came away quite impressed with what I saw, and am still kicking myself for not seeing Clueless earlier. 9/10