REVIEW: Beyond, Beyond Clueless



Photos from Beyond Clueless + Director Q&A at The Cube Microplex, Bristol by Reba Martin

From prom queens to pentagrams, Beyond Clueless is a daydream mash up of all the best (and worst) high school movies. Not a standard talking heads documentary, Beyond Clueless is much more hypnotic: it’s a montage of scenes from almost every teen film released from 1994 – 2005 with Fairuza Balk’s enchantingly husky voice narrating director/creator Charlie Lyne’s love letter to the genre. The enthusiasm and genuine appreciation of high school films comes across, and Beyond Clueless just added fuel to the fire of my ever growing love of the hyper-reality that is teenage America. So if like me you obsessively watch video essays analysing films on YouTube as much as you re-watch Jawbreaker then you will find this to be one of the most ideal and satisfying documentaries ever.

It looks at teen films from inside the world of teen films, and breaks down but fully embraces the world of high school films, Beyond Clueless is more immersive than a straight forwards analysis; the film itself is set out in chapters that resemble a coming of age film. Lyne said he was trying to avoid the distance (and the judgement that comes with it), that so many documentaries carry. Beyond Clueless doesn’t try to separate itself from this genre, it looks at these films from within the world of these films, and not questioning or condemning some of the questionable characters and plots, but instead fully accepting that these films just exist in a place that certainly isn’t familiar in the real world to an English audience, and maybe not even American audiences. Although it sounds like a backhanded compliment, it’s really nice that it’s not heavily academic – it’s nice to watch something that plays like it was made with a teenage audience in mind, you won’t want to be  thinking about genre theory or the male gaze, but instead will just really want to watch Slap Her, She’s French again.

If for some reason you don’t love American high school movies, and are more concerned with whatever you consider to be more high-brow than She’s All That, then you will still be impressed by the actual crafting of this film. In the post-show Q&A, Lyne told us how he basically spent a year in bed obsessively re-watching his 300 favourite high school movies and making notes, before transferring them onto a large industrial pin board (I imagined a serial killers apartment with a wall full of newspaper clippings, only with pictures of Freddie Prinze Jr.), before committing the whole thing to a 90 minute montage on final cuts pro. Rather than just a glorified super-cut, right from the cafeteria map to graduation.

Beyond Clueless documents the ten years that separate the two queen bees of the genre Clueless and Mean Girls. In the Q&A I was lucky enough to go to at The Cube Microplex, an adult asked director Charlie Lyne whether there were any good high school films post of this era, and inspired by this clueless old man who asked, I crafted (pun intended) a list of decent recent high school/teen films for all of us too young to remember The Craft’s theatrical release.  

  1. IT’S A BOY GIRL THING (2006)
  1. THE TO DO LIST (2013)
  1. 17 AGAIN (2009) Will Zac Efron ever get out of high-school?
  1. EASY A (2010)

by Reba Martin

REBAReba Martin is a teenager from Bristol. She’s been obsessed with the Simpsons since before she could walk, and still watches it religiously to this day. Her hobbies include planning to go to the cinema, and going to the cinema. She cries uncontrollably with joy at animated children’s movies, so she doesn’t feel her judgement is clear enough to choose a favourite film (but if she had to it would be Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.) You look at her movie diaryhere and her Tumblr at changingghost.

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