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Think of Jane Austen’s Emma, transported to a 1990s Beverly Hills High School, and you get Clueless.  Alicia Silverstone is Cher, a spoiled teenager, whose life revolves around clothes, shopping and being one of the most popular girls in school.  She and her friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) take new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) under their wing and give her a makeover, in the hope of pairing her up with good looking Elton (Jeremy Sisto).  However, nothing goes to plan, and Cher starts wondering if she’s really as good at this matchmaking business as she thinks she is – or is she really just clueless?

As a big fan of Emma, I was intrigued to see how this modern day version worked, and – although I suspect I’m a bit older than the audience at which this film was aimed – I did enjoy it a lot.  Alicia Silverstone was just the right combination of loveable and infuriating, and Brittany Murphy was lovely as Tai.  Paul Rudd was adorable as Josh, and Breckin Meyer and Jeremy Sisto both provided good support.

You don’t need to have any knowledge of Emma to enjoy Clueless – it can either be viewed as a retelling of the story, or as a sweet film in its own right.  A likeable cast and some funny moments make it well worth seeing.

Year of release: 1995

Director: Amy Heckerling

Producers: Twink Caplan, Barry M. Berg, Robert Lawrence, Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder

Writers: Jane Austen (based on novel ‘Emma’), Amy Heckerling

Main cast: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto, Dan Hedaya

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Click here for my review of the novel ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen.

Click here for my review of the 1972 mini series adaptation of Emma, starring Doran Godwin.

Click here for my review of the 1996 film Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Click here for my review of the 1996 television film Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale.

Click here for my review of the 2009 mini series adaptation of Emma, starring Romola Garai.

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With all the hype surrounding Baz Luhrmann’s big-screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s incredible novel, it seemed like a good time to check out another adaptation – not the famous Redford/Farrow version from 1974; rather this one stars British actor Toby Stephens as Gatsby, Paul Rudd (usually better known for his comedic roles) as Nick Carraway, Mira Sorvino as Daisy, and Martin Donovan as Tom Buchanan.

This version was made for tv, and clearly had a much smaller budget that the lavish 1974 version.  In addition, some of the casting choices seem unusual, but somehow it all works and I think I actually got more out of this than it’s more famous predecessor. (There were actually two much earlier adaptations starring respectively, Warner Baxter and Alan Ladd as Gatsby, and I would certainly be interested in seeing these.)

Tony Stephens did a good job in the titular role.  His American accent was convincing and he certainly possesses the enigmatic beauty of Gatsby.  I was not so sure of Mira Sorvino as Daisy.  Basically Daisy is a shallow, self-absorbed woman who places far too much emphasis on the importance of money – this being the reason that she and Gatsby did not end up together after they first fell in love, because at the time he simply did not have enough money to keep her.  Sorvino’s portrayal is a lot softer around the edges, and had I not read the novel, I probably would have felt a fair amount of sympathy for Daisy (well, until the end of the film anyway, when she lets Gatsby take the blame for the death of a woman in a road accident, and then didn’t turn up or even send flowers to Gatsby’s funeral when the grief-stricken husband of the dead woman shoots him dead, believing him to responsible for his wife’s death).  Mia Farrow made Daisy too shrill and annoying; Sorvino makes her almost too likeable, but it’s a different interpretation, which is interesting to watch.

For me however, the two stand-out cast members were Rudd as Carraway, who is by far the most decent character of the lot, and Donovan as the brutish Tom.  Both played their roles extremely well, which in Rudd’s case particularly was important, as Nick narrates the story.

The sets are not as lavish and extravagant as some might expect (I know without having seen it, that Luhrmann is bound to go the other way, and have sets that are completely OTT), but they certainly served their purpose well enough.

As an accompaniment to the novel, this version is probably an excellent one to see – it is faithful to the story, and impressed me.  I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but I would say that it is certainly worth a watch.  The funeral of Gatsby at the end genuinely made me sad to just three mourners; just one of the hundreds of people who were happy to attend Gatsby’s house, enjoy his hospitality and consume his food and drink could be bothered to turn up.

Overall, I would recommend this.  It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it’s a faithful one, and there was plenty to enjoy.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Robert Markowitz

Producers: Delia Fine, Antony Root, Jane Tanyer, Tom Thayer, Manon Bougie, Craig McNeil, David Roessell

Writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel), John McLaughlin

Main cast: Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd, Mira Sorvino, Martin Donovan, Francie Swift

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1974 film adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2013 film adaptation.

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