Stacey Dash

Clueless (1995, Amy Heckerling)

I really didn’t want to bag on Clueless when I watched it this time, the first time since the theater, almost twenty-four years ago. It got good reviews on release, which I fully disagreed with—I’d forgotten how much audiences in the eighties and nineties liked farcical sitcom-level characterizations. Particularly in the nineties with the lusterless, generically appealing male leads–Clueless has no standout male performances, not even Dan Hedaya playing Dan Hedaya playing a movie dad. Paul Rudd is a twenty-one year-old who ogles his fifteen year-old ex-step-sister, Alicia Silverstone, and presumably is her first lover, waiting until she’s sixteen. Rudd’s not playing it self aware.

Yes, Clueless would be a very different film if he were, but it might be at least somewhat honest. Jeremy Sisto is the creep who tries to force himself on Silverstone, then leaves her in a bad neighborhood to be mugged at gunpoint after she rebuffs him.

Breckin Meyer’s the stoner who Silverstone’s friend, Brittany Murphy, secretly likes but can’t tell Silverstone because Silverstone doesn’t approve of stoners. Meyer’s charmless but somehow too mediocre to be bad. Ditto Donald Faison as Silverstone’s best friend Stacey Dash’s boyfriend. There’s a lot to unpack with Dash and Faison as the only two Black people in the movie. I guess Sean Holland, as Faison’s friend, but… Holland’s not in it much.

Oh, and then there’s Justin Walker as Silverstone’s crush. There’s a lot to unpack with Walker too.

But I don’t have the vocabulary or experience to unpack Clueless. There’s even something about the phrase Clueless and who taught Silverstone—who frequently calls people clueless in her narration, which isn’t good either—to call people clueless and who to call clueless. Give me a Roman Polanski movie about demonizing a woman’s sexuality to talk about; I don’t feel comfortable talking about what writer and director Heckerling is doing with this one. Other the writing and directing an immediately dated, desperate for MTV credit (it is Paramount), dumbing down of Jane Austen’s Emma for audiences who would be embracing the original setting just a few years later.

Oh, wow. You know who gave it ★★★½. Oh, of course he did. Immediately disqualified. Holy cow, he doesn’t even talk about Rudd perving on a sixteen year-old. Hello, 1995.

I feel like I’m back in high school again describing how narrative arcs work. What’s really funny is… they work the same way I said they worked back then as they do now; now, after I’ve read a couple hundred actually great novels, done a bunch of undergrad (shudder) workshopping, and gotten an MFA in writing.

Anyway.

What’s so funny about Clueless is how much I wanted it to succeed. I mean… I knew it wasn’t going to happen from the opening credits, but I really did want it to be a win. I really wanted to be remembering it wrong. I really wanted Heckerling to have some good reason for the Paul Rudd thing—which, given the movie avoids ever letting Hedaya know about the “like, it’s not actually incest, Flowers in the Attic much” romance after building up his legendary anger the whole movie—but she doesn’t. It’s a combination of “well, see, it’s like Emma, see” and so Heckerling doesn’t actually have to write anything like actual character development. Why bother when you have a montage sequence.

Clueless is… oh, crap, I can’t say it’s clueless, can I? I can’t go so cheap. Clueless is tedious, best pinned to the wall of historical item to be examined. Though, sadly, not for anything Heckerling intentionally does in the film. She can’t even direct the actually funny parts well, which makes everything even more distressing.

Clueless is badly done.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Amy Heckerling; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Debra Chiate; music by David Kitay; production designer, Steven J. Jordan; costume designer, Mona May; produced by Scott Rudin and Robert Lawrence; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Alicia Silverstone (Cher), Paul Rudd (Josh), Dan Hedaya (Mel Horowitz), Stacey Dash (Dionne), Donald Faison (Murray), Brittany Murphy (Tai), Breckin Meyer (Travis), Justin Walker (Christian), Jeremy Sisto (Elton), Elisa Donovan (Amber), Aida Linares (Lucy), Wallace Shawn (Mr. Wendell Hall), Twink Caplan (Miss Toby Geist), and Julie Brown (Ms. Stoeger).


Cold Around the Heart (1997, John Ridley)

From the first few minutes—after lengthy opening titles (if only one knew it’d be Mason Daring’s worst score ever)—it’s immediately clear something is terribly wrong with Cold Around the Heart. David Caruso and Kelly Lynch are awful in the opening scene, followed by a terrible cameo from Richard Kind. Except, during Kind’s atrocious appearance—where it becomes obvious Ridley’s script is going to have some terrible, post-Tarantino dialogue—Caruso is all of a sudden really good.

And Caruso stays good for most of the film. He’s never good with Lynch, who’s astoundingly bad throughout, but he never repeats the awfulness of the first scene.

Stacey Dash shows up as a hitchhiker—Caruso and Lynch are stick-up artists; Lynch betrays Caruso and he’s after her—and she and Caruso form an odd friendship. Dash has a lot of problems, most she has nothing to do with. Ridley cast her, around the age of thirty, as a fifteen year-old. She can’t surmount that one. But she gets good throughout and she and Caruso’s relationship is refreshingly honest.

The best performance in the film is from Chris Noth, who shows up in the second half. John Spencer shows up for a bit and is, unfortunately, lame. Much like Pruitt Taylor Vince, it appears to be Ridley’s fault. He can’t direct actors.

On the whole, Ridley composes shots well and Malik Hassan Sayeed is an excellent cinematographer.

It’s a bad film. It’s got good elements, but it’s quite bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Ridley; director of photography, Malik Hassan Sayeed; edited by Eric L. Beason; music by Mason Daring; production designer, Kara Lindstrom; produced by Craig Baumgarten, Dan Halsted and Adam Merims; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring David Caruso (Ned), Kelly Lynch (Jude), Stacey Dash (Bec), Chris Noth (T), John Spencer (Uncle Mike), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Johnny Cokebottles), Richard Kind (Nabbish) and Mark Boone Junior (Angry Man).


Illegal in Blue (1995, Stu Segall)

So when Trevor Goddard gives a film’s best performance, what can you really say about the film? And calling Illegal in Blue a film is a compliment… but apparently it really was made by a motion picture company.

Orion, no less.

Two credits stick out. First, Orion. I had no idea they were trying to get into the “erotic thriller” genre before bankruptcy. Second, director Segall. Well, maybe not. In addition to producing bad cop shows (“Hunter”), Segall directed softcore movies under a different name. Blue makes a little more sense.

The most recognizable actor is Louis Giambalvo. He’s not bad, but he’s not as good as Goddard. Goddard gets to yell his terrible lines, Giambalvo has to speak his ludicrous dialogue calmly and rationally.

The lead, played by Dan Gauthier, is a cop who moonlights as a cabbie. While driving his cab, he meets Stacey Dash, who’s soon suspected of murdering her husband. Interesting thing about Blue is how Dash’s race is handled—it’s ignored. Unless Segall is including her being black as another reason to objectify her. I’m not sure it makes Blue significant or special, but it’s definitely particular.

Gauthier is awful. He couldn’t do a cologne commercial. Dash is fairly bad too, though she occasionally has a not terrible delivery. But not often.

Illegal in Blue is awful but it’s hard not to notice its similarities with film noir. Somehow (maybe Against All Odds did it), the genre got hijacked by late night cable.

But anyway….

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Stu Segall; written by Noel Hynd; director of photography, Ernest Paul Roebuck; edited by John W. Carr; music by Stephen Edwards; production designer, Anthony Brockliss; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Stacey Dash (Kari Truitt), Dan Gauthier (Chris Morgan), Louis Giambalvo (Lt. Cavanaugh), Trevor Goddard (Mickey Fuller), Michael Durrell (Michael Snyder), Sandra Robinson (Joanne), David Groh (Dist. Attorney Frank Jacobi), Michael Cavanaugh (Lt. Lyle), Francis X. McCarthy (Sterling Justice), Raye Birk (Gary Dedmarch), Scott Kraft (Syd) and John Snyder (Denny).


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