December 31, 2012
Clueless: As If!
Summary: Teenagers are frolicking in California, like they’re in a Noxzema commercial. But they’re not – it’s just Cher Horowitz’s (Alicia Silverstone) life. She has an awesome wardrobe and picks out matches on a computer. Her father (Dan Hedaya) is a lawyer who fights with people for a living, but fights with Cher for free. He tells her Josh, her former stepbrother, is coming to town that night and will be having dinner with them.
Cher has a great Jeep she’s horrible at driving, and she doesn’t even have a license yet. Her best friend is Dionne (Stacey Dash); both of them were named after “great singers of the past who now do infomercials.” Dionne and her boyfriend Murray (Donald Faison) fight a lot, and Cher thinks they’re inspired by What’s Love Got to Do With It? Murray accuses Dionne of “jeeping” with other guys, so she accuses him of cheating on her, since she found an extension in his car. Cher doesn’t see the appeal of high school boys, which are like dogs.
Cher’s debate teacher Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) asks her and her rival Amber (Elisa Donovan) to hold a debate on immigration. Cher uses an analogy involving her father’s birthday party and rearranging chairs to make more room for unexpected guests. Also, “it does not say RSVP on the statue of liberty.” Amber doesn’t get it. Cher replies that it was her father’s 50th birthday.
Elton (Jeremy Sisto) has no comments on the debate but wants to go to the quad to find his missing Cranberries CD. Travis (Breckin Meyer) has learned that tolerance is good because he may not always like the music his future children will listen to. Mr. Hall hands out report cards (Travis tries to jump out the window), learning that one student, Christian, won’t be in class until the second half of the year. Cher is shocked that she got a C in debate.
Cher goes home to her gorgeous house, where a huge portrait of her late mother looks over the foyer. Josh (Paul Rudd) is home, and Cher tells him to go bug his new stepfamily. She also thinks he should go to school on the East Coast since girls there aren’t as particular about guys. Josh changes the TV from Beavis and Butthead to the news because he actually cares about the world. They eat dinner with Mr. Horowitz, who wants Josh to be a corporate lawyer instead of an environmental lawyer. Though at least Josh, unlike Cher, knows what he wants to do.
Mr. Horowitz asks Cher about her report card, but she isn’t ready for him to see it since she hasn’t finished negotiating her grades with her teachers. Josh is disgusted, but Cher has been successful with it every other semester. She gets her PE grade changed by complaining to her teacher about a mean boy. She gets another teacher, Ms. Geist (Twink Caplan), to change her grade by promising to write her congressman about violations of the Clean Air Act. But Mr. Hall won’t budge.
After school, Cher and Dionne head to the mall for retail therapy. Dionne thinks Mr. Hall is miserable and wants everyone else to be the same way. Cher decides that’s the place to start – get him laid. Too bad there aren’t any hot female teachers at school. Ms. Geist is the only possible option, and Cher decides not to discount her, despite her obvious flaws. She writes her a note containing a famous quote (from Cliff’s Notes) and leaves it and a rose in her box. Ms. Geist is touched.
Mr. Hall tells his students how many tardies they have to work off. Travis has the most, 38, and gives an acceptance speech thanking his parents, L.A.’s bus drivers, and McDonald’s for making Egg McMuffins. Cher has two tardies and gets one excused because she was “surfing the crimson wave.” She tells Mr. Hall that Ms. Geist was right about him – he’s the only one in the school with “any intelligence.”
At home, Mr. Horowitz confronts Cher over a notice for unpaid tickets. She’s forbidden to drive her Jeep without a licensed driver. (Dionne doesn’t count – “two permits do not equal a license.”) Cher charms Josh, who’s reading Nietzsche, into giving her a lesson, or maybe less charms him than bugs him until he gives in to shut her up.
He tells her he’s going to a Tree People meeting; they might get Marky Mark to plant a tree. Cher isn’t impressed, but Josh thinks he might want to use his celebrity for a good cause. Cher says she does nice things all the time, like donating outfits to their housekeeper, Lucy. Plus, she’s matchmaking for Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist. Josh says that’s probably more for Cher than for them. If she ever did anything that wasn’t 90 percent selfish, he’d die of shock. She says that would be enough of a motive for her.
At school, Cher asks Dionne if she would call her selfish. “Not to your face,” Dionne assures her. She guesses that Josh is making Cher feel bad about herself. They catch up with Mr. Hall and Cher gives him coffee, encouraging him to share it with Ms. Geist. They then visit Ms. Geist in the guidance office and try to give her a quickie makeover. Ms. Geist just wants them to sign up for the environmental fair.
The girls head to PE, where Cher hopes to work off the miniscule amount of food she’s eaten. They see Ms. Geist and Mr. Hall together and think they’re hitting it off. “Old people can be so sweet,” Cher says happily. Indeed, the teachers are involved, and Mr. Hall’s attitude in class improves. Everyone applauds Cher for making it happen. Her grades go up, and Mr. Horowitz is pleased that she was able to argue them better.
Cher’s so happy with herself that she feels like being benevolent to more people. This involves telling Dionne to take out her nose ring when her allergies act up. She complains to their PE teacher about the state of gym class, then almost gets hit by a tennis ball. Dionne gets out of tennis by turning in a note from her private instructor, who’s afraid gym class will interfere with his lessons. Amber’s plastic surgeon won’t let her participate in any activity where balls fly at her nose. “Well, there goes your social life,” Dionne remarks.
There’s a new student at school: Tai (Brittany Murphy, RIP). Amber immediately makes fun of her grungy clothes. Cher says Tai is clueless and they should make her over. Dionne disagrees; “she is toe up. Our stock would plummet.” Cher quickly befriends Tai, who’s looking for “herbal refreshment.” The girls tell her they don’t have tea, but she can get Coke. Tai’s impressed. They give her a quick tour of various cliques, sharing Cher’s choice not to date high school boys.
Murray comes by looking for money from Dionne, who he calls “woman.” She reminds him that she hates it when he calls her that. “Street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic, undertones,” he replies. Tai’s impressed that people at the school talk like adults. Cher tells her it’s a really good school.
Tai goes to the cafeteria, where she meets Travis and bonds with him over their shared love of Marvin the Martian. When she tells Cher and Dionne about him, Cher cautions her not to get involved with someone who’s always high. Smoking pot at parties is okay, but no one respectable would date a pothead. She suggests a makeover, and Tai agrees to it, saying she’s never had straight friends before.
After school, Cher and Dionne wash the red dye out of Tai’s hair, then do her makeup and alter her clothes. Cher and Tai do Buns of Steel, and Cher teaches Tai the word “sporadically.” They’re also going to expand their reading horizons – Cher will read Fit or Fat? and Tai will read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Josh comes home and Cher tells him she wants to do something good for humanity. He suggests sterilization. He’s impressed that she found someone more clueless than herself to rescue. Cher thinks she’s improving Tai’s life. Tai hopes to see Josh again, and “not sporadically.”
Back at school, Travis gives Tai a flyer for a party, but Dionne and Cher tell her it won’t be attended by anyone respectable. They think she has potential to be popular because she has something going for her that no one else does. Tai says she’s not a virgin, but Cher says their friendship will help her get any guy she wants. Like Elton, for example. Cher tries to get them together by getting them close while she’s taking pictures of her friends.
Dionne beeps Cher during dinner, telling her that Murray saw her picture of Tai in Elton’s locker. She thinks they should all go to the Valley party after all. Murray drives, fighting with Dionne over a map. Cher goes Tai pointers on leaving Elton wanting more, though Tai’s distracted by Travis’ skateboarding skills. She notices that Amber’s wearing the same dress Cher had on the day before. Cher’s evening gets worse when Travis spills beer on her shoes. He offers pot to make up for it.
The girls spot Elton and do the pretend-I-just-said-something-funny trick. It just confuses Travis, who doesn’t know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Murray’s friend is shaving Murray’s head, which Dionne flips out about. She threatens to call Murray’s mother. The rest of the partiers dance, and Tai is still drawn to Travis, whose idea of impressing her is jumping off of something really high. Cher pulls Tai away and gets her to dance to catch Elton’s attention. All she catches is a shoe to the head.
Elton and Cher tend to Tai, chasing away Travis. Cher tells Elton to ask questions to keep Tai conscious. Elton asks what seven times seven is. “Stuff she knows!” Cher exclaims. Once she’s recovered, Tai goes off to dance with Elton. Cher’s pleased with herself again, but not for long – her father wants her home in 20 minutes, unaware that she’s in the Valley, which is more than 20 minutes away.
Cher, Tai, and Elton leave the party together, and there’s some shuffling to decide who’s driving who home. Tai ends up with another classmate while Elton takes Cher. Cher wants to see Elton settle down, and he thinks she means with her, not Tai. He keeps trying to kiss her, but she fights him off and gets out of his car in a liquor store parking lot.
Elton ditches her, so Cher tries to call for a cab. Suddenly a guy puts a gun to her head and takes her money and phone, telling her to get on the ground. Cher objects – she’s wearing a designer dress. Finally she gets on the ground, and her mugger thanks her and leaves. Cher doesn’t want to call her father, so she calls Josh for a ride. He picks her up while discussing something scholastic with a date. The date and Cher end up disagreeing over who said “to thine own self be true.” (Cher is correct because she remembers Mel Gibson correctly.)
Even a massage doesn’t make Cher feel better, since she has to tell Tai that Elton doesn’t want to be with her. The two of them and Dionne ditch school to talk about boys and Cher’s virginity. “She’s saving herself for Luke Perry,” Dionne explains. Cher adds that she doesn’t want to have sex until she finds the right person. She’s picky enough about her shoes. Besides, Dionne is also (technically) a virgin. Tai gets emotional when she hears the song she and Elton danced to at the party.
Cher realizes she needs to find someone to take Elton’s place, but there aren’t many good choices at school. Until one day, when Christian (Justin Walker), shows up. Cher figures it’s okay to find her own guy while she’s looking for one for Tai. She gives an oral presentation in debate class about violence in the media, saying that there’s so much in the news that there’s no point in taking it out of TV shows. Amber again objects to Cher’s thought process, but Christian liked it.
Cher tries to make Christian interested by sending herself flowers, candy, and love letters. Eventually he asks her to do something with him. He comes to pick her up while Josh is helping Mr. Horowitz and a bunch of other lawyers with a big case. Mr. Horowitz slams Christian for being a Rat Pack wannabe. He also objects to Cher’s dress, which Josh thinks looks hot. He thinks he should follow them to the party to keep an eye on Cher.
At the party, Tai takes a spill down some stairs, then spots Elton dancing with Amber. Cher assures her that Amber isn’t that pretty; she’s a Monet. From far away, she looks pretty, but up close, she’s a mess. Tai messes with her outfit, then ends up dancing with Josh. At the end of the night, Josh drives Cher home, and she suggests that they take the lawyers food since they’ve been working so hard.
Cher tells us that sometimes she enjoys staying home more than partying, maybe because she gets to wear more comfortable clothes. (Also because she gets to watch Ren and Stimpy and joke around with Josh.) Josh’s mother calls but he doesn’t want to talk to her because he’ll have to go home for spring break. Cher invites him to stay with her and Mr. Horowitz over break. He accepts, though he can’t believe he’s listening to someone who watches cartoons. She tells him that Ren and Stimpy are “way existential.”
Christian calls and plans a night watching movies with Cher. She uses photos to pick out the perfect wardrobe, gets Dionne to do her makeup, and puts a tube of cookie dough in the oven because women should always have something baking when a man comes over. Cher thinks this might be the night she loses her virginity.
Cher suggests that she and Christian go swimming, but he’d rather watch Tony Curtis movies – Some Like it Hot and Spartacus (or, as Cher calls it, Sporadicus). During the movie, Cher tries to primp herself and look sexy but instead falls off the bed. Then she suggests wine or coffee. Christian starts seeing the light and makes up an excuse to leave.
Cher tells Dionne and Murray what happened while Murray gives Dionne a driving lesson. She’s coming to grips with the rejection, since Christian dresses better than she does: “What would I bring to the relationship?” Murray breaks the news that Christian is gay. Cher’s in disbelief, but Dionne notes that Christian likes to shop and dresses really well. Then she accidentally drives onto the freeway. Murray gets her to safety and they celebrate their brush with death by making out. Cher tells us that after that, Dionne was no longer a virgin, technical or otherwise.
Christian and Cher go shopping together at the mall while Tai flirts with some boys. They terrorize her by threatening to drop her over a balcony, and Christian comes to her rescue. Cher thinks that for a clueless girl, Tai’s good at being a damsel in distress. The story of Tai’s experience spreads through school (with a number of embellishments), and Cher tries to relate by talking about her mugging. No one cares. Also, now Tai is really popular and has no time for Cher or Travis.
Cher tries to get ready for her driving test but can’t find the white shirt she thinks makes her look responsible. She asks Lucy to talk to the gardener about something since Cher doesn’t speak Mexican. Lucy takes offense, and Josh explains that Lucy’s from El Salvador, not Mexico. Cher doesn’t get the difference. He points out that she gets upset if someone thinks she lives below Sunset.
The driving test doesn’t go well, partly because Cher’s a horrible driver and partly because she feels strange because she doesn’t like that Josh thinks she was mean to Lucy. The driving instructor ends the test early, and this time Cher can’t negotiate her way to a passing score. When she gets home, she’s disheartened to see Josh and Tai having fun together. Tai’s brought over things that remind her of Elton; she wants to burn them and move on. She’s found a new guy and wants Cher to help her land him. It’s Josh.
Cher feels even worse than before. She asks Tai if she’s sure she’s the right girl for Josh, since he’s such a brain. Tai thinks Cher is calling her stupid. She doesn’t know why she’s listening to Cher anyway: She’s “a virgin who can’t drive.” Cher admonishes that that was “way harsh.” She feels like she’s created a monster. She goes for a walk, lamenting all the things she’s done wrong and wondering why Tai likes Josh anyway. Then it hits her: She likes Josh, too.
Now Cher doesn’t know how to act, since her normal methods of getting a guy’s attention won’t work on Josh. She watches the news with him, confused about war in Bosnia because she thought peace was declared in the Middle East. Later, she helps Mr. Horowitz with his case and asks if he’s ever had a problem he couldn’t argue his way out of. She confides that she likes a boy who likes someone else. Mr. Horowitz says the guy must be an idiot. Cher says he’s not, but he makes her feel selfish. Her father points out all the ways she takes care of him and the house.
At school, Ms. Geist talks to the students about the Pismo Beach disaster, and Cher is suddenly inspired. She offers to help organize a relief effort. She starts by gathering canned goods, clothes, and various other things (like skis) from her own house, then getting people at school to sign up to donate belongings. Travis stops by to help and apologizes for ruining Cher’s shoes at the party. (The apology is part of a “club” he’s joined – a club that has 12 steps.) He invites her to a skating exhibition.
At the exhibition, Cher runs into Tai and the girls apologize to each other and make up. Cher sees that Tai and Travis really like each other, so Josh is no longer a factor. Back at home, Cher helps with the case again, but another lawyer gets mad at her for screwing something up and starts yelling. Josh defends her, but the lawyer accuses him of taking her side because of a crush.
Josh assures Cher that she didn’t screw anything up, then blasts the lawyer for making Cher worry. He encourages her to go do something fun instead of working. She thinks he only thinks she does superficial things and is “just a ditz with a credit card.” Josh tries to recover, saying Cher is young and beautiful. She’s touched by this. Josh says he’s only helping with the case because it’s a learning experience, and because Mel’s the only one who cares about him. Cher says that’s not true. Josh asks if she cares about him. She tries to pretend she was kidding around, but he kisses her.
Cut to a wedding – but not Josh and Cher’s. (She’s only 16, and they live in California, not Kentucky.) It’s Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist’s wedding, and Cher’s a bridesmaid. At the reception, Cher, Dionne, and Tai discuss their future weddings as Josh, Murray, and Travis try not to freak out. Josh encourages Cher to catch the bouquet since the guys have a pool going over whose girlfriend gets it. Cher succeeds, though she has to fight Amber for it.
Thoughts: ’90s music alerts: No Doubt, Cranberries, Counting Crows, Coolio. So, basically, all the ’90s music you can think of.
Trivia: Cher mispronouncing “Haitians” wasn’t scripted. Alicia Silverstone really didn’t know how to say it.
One of my proudest moments in life (and yes, this is pretty sad) was when I was in the car with someone who got in the wrong lane leaving a Metro station parking lot and I got to say Josh’s line: “Hey, James Bond, in America, we drive on the right side of the road.”
I love watching Donald Faison in this moving, then watching him on Scrubs. It’s funny to think of Murray and Turk being played by the same actor.
Remember when I said this super-special surprise was related to the new show I’ll be recapping soon? That’s not true. It was true, when I originally planned to recap something else for the super-special surprise. But at the last minute I saw that Clueless was on TV and jumped on it. For the record, my original super-special surprise was I Know What You Did Last Summer.