REVIEW: Beyond Clueless | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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fourDirector: Charlie Lyne

Starring: Fairuza Balk

Run Time: 89 mins

Certificate: 15

 

Ultra Culture and The Guardian scribe, Charlie Lyne has crafted a nostalgic, enjoyable and often exhilarating visual essay on the American high-school movie. Though the film is not without its many problems, Beyond Clueless is evidently a labour of love. Packed with a myriad of interesting theories, the film builds to a satisfying, almost intoxicating, crescendo helped in no small part by Fairuza Balk’s (star of 1996’s The Craft) sultry narration and British indie band, Summer Camp’s superbly atmospheric score.

The film is split into several chapters, each denoting a different aspect of teenage life which Lyne focuses on, drawing on a wealth of material (around 270 films), ranging chronologically from Clueless (1995) to Mean Girls (2004) to argue his case. The source material itself is problematic and often linked tenuously to the chosen sub-genre; seemingly the result of an uncertain and overly subjective selection process. It often becomes obvious that the material has been manipulated to further (or even force) Lyne’s argument rather than to exhibit the actual themes present within the films. This often makes Beyond Clueless feel like a lot less than the sum of its parts – I often found myself straining my ears to hear the dialogue from the original films beneath Banks’ narration.

Despite its problems, Lyne’s knowledge of and passion for these films is evident throughout and he brings a tongue in cheek gravitas to his work, choosing some interesting and long forgotten (Idle Hands, Bubble Boy, Slap He She’s French) case studies along with more popular fare (Mean Girls and, my personal favourite, 13 Going on 30) to showcase his ideas. There is a distinct lack of any real central argument throughout the piece and an over-reliance on the use of montage that does become repetitive towards the end. Overall, though Beyond Clueless may not lend itself well to repeat viewings, and often has the air of a Undergraduate Film Studies thesis, it is, more often than not, imaginative and intriguing viewing and certainly well worth a watch, Beyotch.

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