Lacking more than a clue


Paramount Pictures
Written and directed by Amy Heckerling
Reviewed by Roslyn Moloney
"Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Is there a problem here?"

This is how 16-year-old Cher (Alicia Silverstone) confronts the world. But the question really at stake here is: Just how far can one director push the boundaries of tolerance in an audience in 90 minutes?

Cher considers herself to be a "way normal" teenager, who, like every other "way normal" teenage girl in Beverly Hills, coordinates her wardrobe using a computer. Her carefully streaked blonde tresses, perky breasts and little-girl pout are cute for the first five or 10 minutes, but after that, they do little but annoy.

The other young female characters are much the same. The only girl to step out of this "superficial space-cadet" mould is considered "clueless" by the others, and comes across to the audience as the stereotypical "dag".

The typical teenage males in this film wear the distinguishable attire of his generation (pants nearly hanging around the ankles, brims of baseball caps shading that oh-so-sensitive skin on the backs of their necks from those harmful UV rays) and have their own language (for the uninitiated, "do-able" means to have sexual potential).

The boys exercise a sort of fatherly superiority over their female counterparts. Cher's friend Dione (Stacey Dash) is taught to drive by her boyfriend, who calls her "woman" as a matter of course. Never is any girl shown to have any superiority over a male. And no, it's not meant to be satirical.

The slick, smooth and over-practised script touches on topics such as gay men (described by Dione's boyfriend as a "bonehead"), cartoon characters Ren and Stimpy ("way existential"), the war in Bosnia ("I thought they declared peace in the Middle East") and sexual harassment (hilarious, is it not?). Director Amy Heckerling says, "For our cast, we wanted fresh faces and people who could make their characters very real". Real what?

The "happy ending" is that the bimbo airhead is brought down to earth and taken care of happily ever after by Mr Wonderful, the serious, down-to-earth good guy, who wants to be an environmental lawyer; the clueless dag is matched up with her male counterpart; and all the poor defenceless little women are taken care of by their ever-so-macho boyfriends.

It seems strange that even though much of western society considers itself to be pretty much aware of equality of the sexes, Hollywood finds it so difficult to make a film about realistic women, and so easy to snap back into the stereotypical image of the helpless bimbo.

And the funniest (ha-ha) one-liner? Well, it would have to go to Josh (Paul Rudd):

Cher: "I want to do something good for humanity."

Josh: "How about sterilisation?"