Twenty-five years ago, writer/director Amy Heckerling adapted the work of Jane Austen unlike any filmmaker before her. In the making of Clueless, Heckerling made the first ever feature film version of the novel “Emma,” transplanting the story from 19th century England to a Beverly Hills high school – and it wound up being an all-around hit. It’s now considered by many, particularly of the millennial generation, to be a modern classic… which creates an interesting pop culture atmosphere for director Autumn de Wilde’s new cinematic take on the material.
To think of them in conflict, however, is a mistake, as Emma is a separate take on the Jane Austen book simply by being a more direct adaptation. Furthermore, as I learned during an interview with Autumn de Wilde last month during the movie’s Los Angeles press day, the filmmaker behind it only has the utmost respect and adoration for Clueless, and loves that the two films coexist.
Bringing up Clueless earned a bright response from the filmmaker, who was quick to adulate the film and the filmmaker behind its creation. Diving in, she noted what made the 1995 movie such a strong take on the original novel, and why it clicked so well with audiences. Said de Wilde,
Just like Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz, the new Emma finds its titular character (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) living a charmed life and making herself happy through successful matchmaking. And just as Cher did with Brittany Murphy’s Tai, this hobby leads her to take the lower class Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) under her wing, as she thinks she can help raise her status with a successful pairing. Unfortunately, mixed signals wind up ruining the day, leaving Emma the unfortunate task of trying to pick up the pieces.
Discussing her film alongside Amy Heckerling’s, Autumn de Wilde noted that what she feels works about both takes on the Jane Austen book is an understanding of the influence of the hierarchies on the story, and the comment that the author was making about them:
Autumn de Wilde continued expressing true admiration for how Amy Heckerling was able to translate the material and find such a perfect parallel contemporary environment for the plot in Clueless. Also being the director of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Heckerling clearly had an understanding of that world, and how she paired it with Jane Austen’s “Emma” is simply wonderful. Said de Wilde,
The added fun is that audiences already seem to be making the connection between the two films. Apparently the Emma director has already been approached about the relation between her movie and Clueless, and it was a link she was ecstatic to see made:
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.