Immersed in the high school realm, watching Beyond Clueless is effortlessly enjoyable as it absorbs you into its world of cliques, romances and lockers. Taking an essay-like structure, 24-year-old Charlie Lyne uses a simple idea and makes it a documentary worthy of your time.
However, you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering how it has taken this long for a documentary of this sort to grace our screens. In some ways, Beyond Clueless had a familiar feeling about it, similar to that of watching a countdown of the ’50 Best High School Movies’ late on a Saturday night on ITV2. However, by combining this with an eerily angsty soundtrack, featuring new tracks from British band Summer Camp, and narration from the sultry sounds of teen-movie star Fairuza Balk, Lyne brings about a film that, stylistically, is produced to near perfection.
Using over 260 films, Lyne analyses ‘chapters’ tracking the life of the average high-school teenager: fitting in, acting out, toeing the line and moving on. From swimming pools to house parties to graduation, using well known high school classics such as Jeepers Creepers and She’s All That as well as Slap Her, She’s French amongst other, more obscure, choices; all to help Lyne gather evidence to reinforce the comparisons identified between the vast selection of teen favourites.
Aside from the familiar aspects of our teenage years that this film highlights, it’s impossible not to enjoy spotting the familiar faces. The who’s who of the high school genre sees an interesting mix of those who had peaked by the mid 90s amongst those who were just seeing their careers start; and, if you ask me, it’s not often enough that we’re reminded of Britney’s…interesting acting career.
Throughout Beyond Clueless there is, however, an unavoidable underlying essence of arrogance, in almost suggesting that American high school films made in the 1990s are the be all and end all of the coming-of-age genre. Focussing on teen cinema between 1995 and 2004, it’s difficult to deny that Lyne has stumbled across something great; 90s high school cinema gave the post-John Hughes generation hope in their teen years, with all it’s bad acting and baggy trousers.
And so, for the generation who are still ‘young’ to adulthood, let the reminiscing begin. Now is the time for us to remember that we survived it all: the fitting in, acting out, toeing the line and, of course, finally – thankfully – the moving on.
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