On July 8 at McCarren Park, Williamsburg, Amy Heckerling’s Clueless screened as part of the SummerScreen 2015 movie festival. The rainy day had caused small puddles to settle at various spots on the asphalt, and at 6:00 p.m. when the gates opened, the air was still thick with moisture. However, the event was “rain or shine,” and despite the threat of more downpours, many trekked valiantly through the humidity to see the beloved ‘90s classic, their blankets set in the available dry spots.
The park was full of complimentary snack stands, courtesy of the sponsors of the event. There were free Kettle chips, Zico coconut waters, and Vitamin Waters. Among the paid options were gourmet ice cream sandwiches (Cool Haus), arancini (Arancini Bros), and barbecue and seafood. There was something for everyone – and certainly, no one complained about the free food and drink available.
The movie was scheduled to begin at sundown, which ended up being around 8:30. An awkward band – possibly punk in genre – filled plenty of the extra time with strange, loud sound tests and stranger, louder songs. Despite the delay and the unpleasant musical distraction, however, the atmosphere remained warm: though there must have been plenty of first-time viewers in the crowd, the excitement from longtime lovers of Clueless was palpable (and visible – in the crowd, there were at least a couple of shirts printed with the movie’s poster). It wasn’t perfect; McCarren Park is several blocks away from the nearest train station, the ground at the Park is rough and uncomfortable without a thick blanket to sit on, the band was irritating and significantly took away from the experience, and it was difficult to navigate the maze of blankets to get to the food stands and portable bathrooms. However, the movie was wonderful, the food was good and varied, and the outdoor screening experience is certainly a worthwhile one. Next year, try out SummerScreen. It’s not a luxury cruise, but it’s a lot of fun.
After the first chords of Kids in America resound, the protagonist of Clueless, Cher (Alicia Silverstone) cheerily introduces herself, her father, the intimidating litigator with high cholesterol, and her friend Dion, with whom she enjoys beauty and popularity. She also introduces Josh (a fresh-faced Paul Rudd), her ex-stepbrother who often hangs around the house, despite the fact that his mother’s marriage to Cher’s father was short-lived. Cher’s father insists, “You divorce wives, not children,” and Josh likes to help him out with work because he’s planning to study law himself, so it’s “a good learning experience” for him. However, one soon wonders whether this is his only reason for coming around so often. Later in the movie, when Josh proclaims that Cher doesn’t want a “brother type” hanging around, she pointedly insists, “Josh, you’re not my brother.”
Cher’s perky narration remains important throughout the movie, ensuring the viewer’s comprehension and providing many laughs. It also allows us to be certain of the purity of her intentions in her various magnanimous projects, such as helping out Tai (Brittany Murphy), the awkward new girl in school, Marvin the Martian fan, and “herbal refreshment” connoisseur. The movie is endlessly faithful to Cher’s point of view, allowing her to remain sympathetic even as the script relentlessly pokes fun at her lavish lifestyle – we laugh at Cher for prescribing herself “retail therapy,” but we also love her for it and feel for her plight. Through her perspective, we come to realize that both the movie and Cher might appear vapid and frivolous on the surface, but in truth have real heart and quite a bit of intelligence.
Clueless is not boring for even one second. Cher’s various endeavors keep the plot fresh – she spends her time making Tai popular, trying (and failing) to get the new boy Christian to date her, deciding to get involved in the Pismo Beach disaster relief, dealing with her feelings for Josh, and fighting and making up with Tai. The movie expertly weaves these plot points together while giving each time to flesh out and bear fruit. The result is a rich and relatable movie that pulls its viewers straight into the lives of the protagonist and her friends. Though we might be skeptical of the issues that they face in their privileged lives, each character is uniquely lovable enough to make it work. Among heartfelt acting and excellent comedic timing, endearing ‘90s aesthetic and music, and witty, fresh dialogue (with references to mainstream culture, Monet, and Shakespeare alike), everything – especially the characters – comes together flawlessly in the end.