Review: Beyond Clueless

If you thought you liked teen movies, you don’t. Or not half as much as Charlie Lyne. He has compiled over two hundred films into this one visual essay and trawling through that many teen movies is a commendable undertaking, even if the end result lacks a little finesse. 

Beyond Clueless is an analytical look at the teen movie – teen movie in this case being any film that involves the teenage experience. This means including films from genres that may otherwise have been discounted: such as thrillers (Final Destination), horrors (Jeepers Creepers), and sci fi (The Craft). The use of such a range of films at times felt jarring and the critical analysis consequently lacking in refinement. Choosing to deliver his criticism through the droll drawl of teen movie icon Fairuza Balk was a great choice however and helped to ease the gap between the world of academia and the world of the teen movie.

The film looks at the stand out elements of the teen movie: the cliques, the hierarchies, prom, self discovery, and sexual awakening. It does so by separating the film into various chapters, such as ‘Toeing the Line’, and in the chapters we are shown footage that supports the critical interpretation and often a montage will ensue to drive the point home. For example Lyne reveals that Idle Hands is about masturbation, we are then shown footage of the crazy hand controlling its teenage owner and let loose to exact its dark desires; and then follows a 3 minute long compilation of teens masturbating. As filler goes, the montages are not unbearable and Summer Camp’s dynamic soundtrack gives the scenes a depth they previously lacked.

The teen movies are not only from a range of genres but also critical receptions which makes for a bit of fun – Slap Her She’s French winning the so bad it’s good award. They are all fairly dated, Lyne’s selection is primarily from the 90s and early 00s, but this doesn’t impair the analysis because the genre conventions haven’t altered all that much. Beyond Clueless isn’t revelatory but it isn’t bland either.

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Lilli Hender

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