In Review: Beyond Clueless

by Linsey Satterthwaite on 22/01/2015

Beyond Clueless

Teen films and their heroes have taken on many forms throughout the decades, ranging from James Dean’s moody rebel Jim Stark to Matthew Broderick’s joyful misfit Ferris. However in the 90s, a film emerged that would kickstart a new teenage revolution in Hollywood. The film was Clueless, a high school based reworking of Jane Austen’s Emma that became a cultural phenomenon for girls, and guys, of a certain age. Clueless spawned a seemingly shiny future for star Alicia Silverstone and a multitude of teen movies as the studios realised there was money in the pubescent pound, providing plentiful subject matter for Beyond Clueless; a documentary exploring the universe that these films inhabit and the emerging social themes.

Eschewing the traditionally dry documentary format, we are instead presented with a series of chapters that contain montages of the tropes that befall most teen movies. We travel the halls of many immortalised high school, watching the characteristics and behaviour that defines this genre. Whether at a keg party or the football field, the key players in this microcosm are ever present, from the jocks to the loners, the plastics and the stoners, we identify with the onscreen personalities and decide where we would be seated in the cafeteria class system. We also come to realise that when there is a first kiss to be stolen, there is always a pool to hand and that Freddie Prinze Jr has walked the halls of many high schools.

An accompanying narration, by teen alumni and proverbial onscreen outsider Fairuza Balk (The Craft), offers some creative and insightful observations into how the films can be read on a deeper level, something that is perhaps not often associated with teen movies that appear, on the surface, to be entirely superficial.

The film charts the period of the 90s to the mid 00s and if some artistic liberty is taken with the definition of the teen genre from the 200 movies that are featured (can The Dreamers really co-exist in the same world as Eurotrip?) director Charlie Lyne should be credited for the dedication he has shown in trawling through the good, the bad and the downright odd of teen movies. It remains unclear whether this is a love letter or a critique of the genre as it combines both these elements; we are able to see how many of these films are problematic yet also find them instinctively enjoyable. Either way, Beyond Clueless is a heady nostalgia trip and a teen dream of a cinematic time capsule.

Linsey has awarded Beyond Clueless three Torches of Truth

three torches

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