Top Ten Goofs in “Clueless,” a 1995 Film Adaptation of “Emma”

Top Ten Goofs in “Clueless,” a 1995 Film Adaptation of “Emma”

1995 was the year of Emma, with Clueless being the third adaptation from that year that I’ve covered in this series. Amy Heckerling, the writer, and director of Clueless beautifully translated Jane Austen’s themes and relationships into a modern comedy of teenage angst, foibles, and misunderstandings. Emma/Cher is a flawed character, so it seems fitting that some goofs made their way into this modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma.

10.) The magic mirror. Established early in the film is that Cher’s wealthy father gave her a jeep for her 16th birthday so she would have a practice vehicle to prepare for her driver’s license, which she hasn’t obtained yet. Toward the end of the film, Cher attempts to get her Drivers license. During the road test, she veers too far to the right and sideswiped a pickup truck parked on the road. The side mirror on the passenger side of her Jeep snaps off in the impact. The examiner administering the test angrily instructs her to turn the corner and pull off the road. We can see in the next shot that her side-mirror has magically reappeared.

9.) Where is that seat belt when you need it? Cher’s friend Dionne is also learning to drive, and there is a scene where she accidentally gets on the freeway with both her boyfriend and Cher in the car with her. Panicked, Cher reaches over her shoulder and hastily puts on the seat belt. Several near misses occur, and Cher’s seat belt remains in place. When the grill of a tractor-trailer bears down on them, the shoulder strap disappears at the height of the incident but is back on when the camera cuts back to Cher. Don’t try this at home.

8.) Queuing up is hard to do. Physical Education for teen girls in Beverly Hills consisted standing in line for personal instruction on tennis racket technique. In the first shot, you see Cher in line with several girls to her right. The teacher calls Cher next who steps forward. As the camera follows her, there is no-one to her right, so the viewer might conclude that the other girls have had their turn and Cher is now at the front of the line. Just before she gets to the teacher, however, Cher pivots and makes an eloquent speech about how standing in line for 45 minutes doesn’t induce aerobic exercise. She is ostensibly speaking to the teacher, but words are directed toward her fellow students, and the girls who had previously been standing at her right are there again, to the right of Dionne.

7.) We don’t have tea, but we have Coke. At the end of PE, Tai says she is in the mood for some “herbal refreshment.” Dionne helpfully tells her that they don’t have tea in the cafeteria, but they have Coke, which astounds Tai who was alluding to drugs, not a cuppa and interprets Dionne’s information in the same vein. The next scene shows Tai with Travis–the Harriet Smith/Robert Martin equivalent–in the cafeteria. In the background, out of focus, is a cooler labeled “Iced Tea.”

6.) Is Cher Jewish or Irish? In an early scene, Mr. Hall, the debate teacher, is citing the tardies of each class member. He reads from his roll-book, “Cher Horowitz, two tardies.” In the very next scene, Cher’s father calls her into his study to discuss her report card. We see an envelope in his hand addressed to “Melvin Hamilton,” which he moves aside to reveal the paper with her grades. The name printed at the top of the form is “Cher Hamilton.” It seems odd that this discrepancy wasn’t caught and fixed in post-production with the scene-adjacent nature of the only surname disclosures in the film. It is possible that this is an in-joke that was intentionally planted in the film. I also checked the cast listing in IMDB, which shows Dan Hedaya being cast as “Mel Horowitz.”

5.) Like something out of a cartoon. Do you remember the first time you realized that the background in animated cartoons was just showing the same tree or rock or cloud over and over in the background? Yeah, well, it seems that they had about four extras on set when this scene filmed. Déjà vu is triggered as the same kids repeatedly walk down the hall behind Christian during his grand entrance into Mr. Hall’s class. I admit to not noticing this until the fourth time I watched it. Who looks at the background in this scene anyway? As if.

4.) The secret life of Elton. There is a famous anachronistic goof in the film Spartacus where actor Tony Curtis forgot to take off his watch while filming, so a Rolex shows up in ancient Rome. This goof in Clueless is more subtle, but still obvious when Elton gets Cher alone in his car after the party in Sun Valley. Actor Jeremy Sisto was a married man in 1995, and apparently forgot to remove the evidence of that union when this scene was filmed. Ring a ding ding.

3.) Josh can see through walls, apparently. The realization of this goof sadly takes a bit of the shine off of a shining moment in the film. Christian has arrived to collect Cher for their first date, and Josh reluctantly let him in. Josh immediately returns to his seat in the room next to the entry hall where Mel’s legal team is working on an urgent case. There is a wall that blocks Josh’s view of the upper part of the staircase from where he sits, yet when Cher makes her appearance, we see Josh looking up as if he is seeing her for the first time, smitten by the young woman on the stairs. Sadly, from where he is sitting, this is impossible. He can’t even see the plant next to the stairs, let alone Cher…unless he has X-Ray vision and can see through the wall.

2.) Josh also has telepathic abilities, apparently. After Cher rejects Elton’s advances, she gets out of his car and he drives away. Cher is then robbed at gunpoint, losing both her cell phone and purse to the mugger. Fortunately, there is a phone booth handy. She picks up the handset and dials the only number she knows from memory, which, in spite of no quarters inserted in the slot, connects her to Josh. The following conversation ensues:

  • Josh: “Hello.”
  • Cher: “Josh, you busy?”
  • Josh’s date: “Who is it?”
  • Josh: “It’s Mel’s daughter.”
  • Cher: “So, okay, I was at this party, and my designated driver tried to attack me, so I got out so he’d stop but then he drove off and deserted me and then this guy with a gun held me up, took my money and my phone, and he yelled at me and he forced me to ruin my dress.”
  • Josh: “Okay, okay, where are you?”
  • Cher: “Sun Valley.”
  • Josh: “Man, you owe me. (Hangs up phone.)”

The next shot is of Cher sitting in the back seat of Josh’s car. Sun Valley is 9.42 square miles. Just exactly how did he find Cher? She never gave him an address, cross-streets, or even the name of the business whose parking lot she is standing in. We can only conclude that Josh telepathically divined her location…or he’s psychic.

1.) Josh’s superpowers, continued. It’s no wonder that Paul Rudd was cast by Marvel as Ant-Man. He pulls off the superpower gig with flair. In the last scene of Clueless, he is sitting next to Cher at the wedding of Mr. Hall and Miss Geist with a flute of champagne in front of him. When the camera cuts to Cher, Dionne and Tai, the flute is filled, not with champagne, but presumably with Diet Coke, since that is the ubiquitous beverage found throughout the film. When the camera cuts back to Josh, however, it is champagne again. In the five shots shown with the flute in front of Josh, it changes every time, along with a disappearing and reappearing video camcorder. Clearly, Josh is either changing the content of his glass on a whim or manipulating perceptions with his mind. Superpowers or goof? This clip shows three of the five shots in the first 37 seconds.

There you have it. In watching the film four times over the past month, I counted at least 15 goofs, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with all the mistakery in this film. Please feel free to add goofs you’ve noticed in this film in the comments below. I’d love to hear whether you spotted the goofs I listed when watching it. Hope you enjoyed this post. I’m audi.

14 Responses to Top Ten Goofs in “Clueless,” a 1995 Film Adaptation of “Emma”

  1. Great post. I didn’t catch any of these, at least I don’t think I did as it’s been more than 10 years since I saw this movie. Definitely time for a re-watch to see if I can notice these things.

  2. Fun to read this post — next time I watch Clueless I will definitely look for these errors! The only thing I can think with Cher’s two names is that Hamilton is her divorced mother’s new name and she may have been registered in school with that name. Otherwise it’s just careless editing, which seems to be nearly an epidemic in Hollyweird. Fortunately these errors did not affect my enjoyment of Clueless — and I’m guessing it didn’t much affect yours either! 🙂

    • I love your theory, but alas, we learned at the beginning of the film that Cher’s mother died in a tragic accident during a routine liposuction. Some have speculated that Amy Heckerling planted the name “Hamilton” as a nod to her Stacy and Brad Hamilton characters in another film she directed, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The official explanation from the studio is that it was a mistake made by the prop department. That explanation doesn’t really fly with me – they would have certainly caught it in post-production and they could have easily filmed a hand (which is all you see) holding the corrected papers. Filmmakers do that kind of fix all the time. It’s a goof, but one that’s difficult to understand how it got through if it wasn’t intentional.

  3. What fun, I love these posts. I missed them all. I will have to watch the movie again and look for those bloopers. Great eye for the obvious and thanks for posting.

    • Finding the goofs in this film was particularly enjoyable. I have a new appreciation for the genius of the way Emma was adapted for a modern time and place. It was masterfully executed.

  4. Clueless is one of my favorite Austen adaptations! I never noticed any of the goofs on your list except for the champagne glass switch-eroo. It’s funny the kind of errors that can end up in a film’s final cut.

    • It was masterfully adapted. I found myself second-guessing some of the goofs, wondering if they were intentional. Interestingly, I found a number of articles online about it that speculated the same thing. Either way, I added it to my collection in order to view it repeatedly and get the screen captures, and I’m delighted to own it. Thanks for commenting!

    • It’s a fun watch. For me, it was a kick to analyze which film characters represented which Austen characters. Some were obvious. Some took some thinking, like Dionne, who I believe is supposed to represent Emma’s sister, Isabella. That took me a bit to piece together. The film is very ’90s in outlook and style. Flashy, frivolous and with undertones of the sex and drug culture of that decade. It earned it’s PG-13 rating.

  5. Well once again my answer must be no! I’m beginnng to wonder if I actually have my eyes open when I watch films (or maybe I don’t have my brain in gear 🙂 )
    So strangely enough I don’t have anything to add, my excuse being that it was a long long time ago when I watched this.

    • No excuses needed Glynis. Suspension of disbelief is part of the movie-going experience. Remember that I’m in a different mindset when writing these posts – I’m actively looking for goofs. I’m noticing the background and the actors surroundings and looking at the cups. LOL. Thanks for commenting!

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