As If! by Jen Chaney

In As If!, author Jen Chaney has compiled years worth of interviews/anecdotes/recollections about the movie Clueless and printed them verbatim. As breezy as the film itself, this is an easy read, easily consumed in two hours or so. And like the film, it is a friendly read with no eye opening or revelatory tidbits to be found (most of the cast/crew say it was a relatively easy shoot).

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The book is broken down into three parts: casting/preproduction/concept, filming, and then post production/box office/legacy. Since most of the book involves quotes or information copied directly from interviews or production notes, the author doesn’t extrapolate, interpret, or otherwise drone on about the information presented.

As expected, most of the recollections are positive or about solving problems such as rainy weather, Silvertstone’s intensive work schedule (she’s in nearly every scene), or shooting at a school while it is in session. Of all the interviews, only Elisa Donovan, who played rival Amber in the movie, offers any kind of pithy commentary and I greatly looked forward to reading her interviews as a result. But even then, you have to read between the lines to see it.

Locals to Los Angeles (or those who want a ‘Clueless’ tour while visiting the city) will appreciate that all site locations are given and can be visited. From the Giant clown signed parking lot Cher is abandoned by Elton (it’s still there!) to the Van Nuys High school masquerading as a Beverly Hills elite educational establishment. Some locations were challenging (e.g., the ‘bathroom’ at the Val party scene) while others serendipitously fell into place (the Horowitz mansion).

The fashion is discussed at length by the actors and costume designer Mona May (who had to operate under a tight budget). Casting choices (those who were considered, whether they read or not) also produced some amusing anecdotes. And the origins of many of the phrases – from ‘Keeping it real!’ to “surfing the crimson wave’ are discussed. But like the film, much of As If! is really about Alicia Silverstone and how the film’s ultimate success really resulted from her quirky personality.

So while there are few witty bon mots or trenchant insights to be found in the book, it was interesting to see all that went into making the movie. I especially appreciated that the author did not spend chapters gushing about how Clueless was the greatest movie ever and that the actors/crew were so gifted as to be sainted. As If! is a very straightforward account of the filming of a beloved teen classic. See the movie again right before reading the book to get the most from the experience. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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