Jane Austen's Emma meets Beverley Hills 90210 in US West Coast teen lifestyle parody.
On the surface, Amy Heckerlings 90s spin on Jane Austens novel Emma appears to be merely another frothy coming-of-age flick. Scratch below the shiny exterior, though, and what emerges is something altogether more clever, as much a sharp, satirical parody of the affluent as it is hip, sassy entertainment dressed in designer labels.
Silverstone, whose hot status would shame most thermonuclear reactors, plays Cher, 15 years old going on 35, daughter of a widowed, irascible but loaded lawyer (Dan Hedaya) and blessed with beauty and popularity superseded only by the enormity of her wardrobe. For her, life is a stream of shopping, gossiping on a mobile phone with best friend Dionne (Dash), and using her assets to be top dog at school.
However, while her head may be a vacuum, her heart is in the right place and she endeavours to do good wherever she sees fit: first by uniting two single, lonely teachers (coinciding, nicely, with her attempts to bribe her way to better school grades); and second by transforming new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) from dumpy
hippy to LA airhead. Only when it transpires that Cher might have sacrificed her own happiness (and potential romantic entanglements) at everybody elses expense does her carefree world come crashing in
Silverstone, complete with pseudo-philosophical voice-overs and a frenetic lexicon of teen dialect (surfing the crimson wave may yet pass into common usage) has just the right amount of dizzy charm to carry off lead duties. A spoiled brat her character
may be, but a loveable one all the same. And the conclusion, obvious as it is, is heart-warming.
The one drawback is that the teenage leads seem a little too sure of themselves given their tender years,
with such dilemmas as nose-jobs replacing more traditional adolescent woes. Fortunately the film is good-natured and smart enough to overcome such foibles, and stands out as a respectable, if alternative, addition to the all-conquering Jane Austen canon.
Thoroughly entertaining as well as being delightfully clever. (but not too clever!)