Part IV: Emma, cont’d.
I wanted to include Amy Heckerling’s Clueless in the discussion of Emma, so here goes.
Clueless stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz (Emma), Dan Hedaya as Mel Horowitz (Mr. Woodhouse), the late Brittany Murphy as Tai (Harriet Smith) and Paul Rudd as Josh (Mr. Knightley). It is regarded by many as being more faithful to Austen’s novel than any other adaptation, but that was before we had Emma09. It is my own personal contention that Emma09 is the most faithful of all the Emma adaptations, but that does not stop me from loving Clueless.
Cher and her friend Dionne (no real equivalent from the book) are high school girls in Los Angeles. They are, of course, leaders of the “in crowd,” but they aren’t so snobbish that they treat other, less cool, people badly. When Tai moves to LA from New York, Cher and Dionne adopt her and try to give her a makeover so that she will fit in better with their crowd. Tai is not totally like Harriet in that she (Tai) comes from a tough neighborhood and she has far more street smarts than either Cher or Dionne. Her “Robert Martin” is a boy named Travis who is a skateboarder and a pot smoker, both of which make him unacceptable in Cher and Dionne’s eyes. Of course, Cher and Dionne try to convince Tai that she would be a good match for Elton, another popular boy on campus but, just like the book’s Mr. Elton, this character is only interested in Cher and is a very shallow young man.
There is no true equivalent of Frank Churchill and there is no real “mystery” around which much of the plot revolves. We have, instead, a newcomer to the school named Christian. Cher imagines herself in love with him, and she cannot understand why he’s just not interested in her. Unlike Frank Churchill, Christian is not secretly engaged to the equivalent of a Jane Fairfax. He is, however, gay and is therefore just as unavailable to Cher as Frank was to Emma.
Josh (Mr. Knightley) is the son of one of Mr. Horowitz’s former wives, making him a one-time stepbrother of Cher. Josh and Mr. Horowitz are close friends, and he and Cher spend a lot of time together. He is not 16 years older than Cher, but he is enough older that it’s understandable that she does not think of him as a potential romantic partner. When they do get together, it’s really very sweet and makes for an adorable ending to the film.
The box containing my DVD of the Paltrow Emma says “If you liked Clueless, you’ll love Emma!” Despite the fact that this absolutely should be the other way around, Clueless is a terrific movie and is a must-see for any fan of Emma.
And, speaking of fans of Emma, I have also read a book called The Importance of Being Emma, by Juliet Archer. It’s a modernization of the story and it sticks almost too closely to the original plot, but it’s cute and fun and is a good read for anyone interested in Austen fan fiction and/or modernizations.
Next up, Northanger Abbey.