Amy Heckerling directs Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and Paul Rudd in this era-defining teen movie that updates Jane Austen’s Emma to a California High School.
Josh: If I ever saw you do anything that wasn’t 90% selfish, I’d die of shock.
Cher: Oh, that’d be reason enough for me.
OK… so its not quite Austen… but it is pretty, pretty witty most of the time.
The Nineties were never like this, I was the same age as these kids and the closest I got to a cellphone was a BT Pager. This is some kind of hyper reality. The candy colours pop, the vacuous rich kids form tribes, maybe only in Hollywood. It is very funny. But the look of thing, like a Rubik’s Cube fucked a Versace shirt, and the child was pure cinema. Amy Heckerling started developing this up as a TV show pilot. “Twentieth Century Fox said they wanted a show about teenagers — but not the nerds. They wanted it to be about the cool kids.” Cool obviously equals wealthy here.
Silverstone is irrefutably hot. This is an iconic breakthrough. She never got close to hitting this hard again. For every Cruise and Winona, there’s a Judd Nelson or a Phoebe Cates. There’s part of me that wonders about Silverstone? Lightning in a bottle? The right role at the right time? Clean, sexy, adorable, funny. The outrageous outfits help, the self-awareness of the script is killer. But she has rare chemistry. Not just with the cast, but with us the audience. You couldn’t imagine Neve Campbell or even Sarah Michelle Gellar making the same impact in the role. A one-off magic occurs. She’s become indelible with the role even thirty years later. Multiplex landmark. The sleeper box office success brought the then-largely unknown Silverstone to international attention and earned her a $10 million, multi-picture deal with Columbia TriStar. As far as I can see the studio only got Excess Baggage for their money. Expect to see that on The Worst Movies We Own podcast later this year… Nobody has hooked us quite so hard with one killer movie since. Is Julia Stiles or Minnie Driver an equivalent household name even though their purple patch churned up far many more hit movies?
Rudd, Murphy and Dan Hedaya shimmy through their scenes with untouchable flair. A soundtrack of post punk and hip hop bangers seal the deal. A bright beacon to a time that never existed.
Dionne: “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, but thy eternal summer shall not fade.” That! Did you write that?
Cher: Duh! It’s like, a famous quote.
Dionne: From where?
Perfect Double Bill: Excess Baggage (1997)
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