The following montage shows the courtship of Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist and the positive effects that the teachers’ budding romance has on their students’ grades. We see Mr. Hall combing his hair in a small mirror on his desk, as the students in his class pass back graded papers, evidently pleased and surprised at the good grades Mr. Hall has given them. Elton, seeing his good grade, reaches his arm around Cher in the desk in front of him and kisses her on the cheek, appreciative of her good deed. We see Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist standing beside a car in the parking lot, kissing passionately, as Cher and Dionne look on from the bushes nearby. Ms. Geist comically struggles to unlock her car after the kiss and Cher and Dionne look at her with sympathy. Later, in her classroom, Ms. Geist writes the weekend homework on the board: “HAVE FUN!” Cher and fellow classmates Summer and Elton celebrate the victory, with Elton yet again planting a kiss on Cher’s cheek. We see Cher exiting the high school as she says in voiceover, “The entire student body was utterly grateful for the improvement in their grades.” Everyone at lunch applauds for Cher, who sips a Diet Coke and soaks up their appreciation.
We see Cher’s report card in close-up. Her poor grades in Debate, P.E., and World History have all been changed to A’s. Mr. Horowitz looks at the grades, somewhat perplexed, as Cher comes into his office carrying a tray. “Cher, what’s this all about?” he asks. He asks her if she has done any extra credit to reflect the change in her grades, and she tells him she has not. Getting up from his desk, Mr. Horowitz is suddenly impressed, as Cher assures him that the grade change was “Totally based on my powers of persuasion.” Mr. Horowitz is glowing, saying, “Honey, I couldn’t be happier than if they were based on real grades,” and they hug.
The scene shifts and the camera pans down a group of girls lined up at P.E. as Cher says in voiceover, “I felt so satisfied, I wanted to do more good deeds.” At the end of the line, Dionne sneezes and Cher tells her that she should take out her nose ring when her allergies act up. The camera zooms out to show the gym teacher helping a student swing her tennis racket, before calling Cher over. Cher doesn’t hear her, and the gym teacher yells more loudly to get her attention. As Cher walks over and picks up a tennis racket, she complains about the problems with P.E. at the school, that “standing in line for 40 minutes is hardly aerobically effective,” and ending with the statement, “I doubt I’ve worked off the calories in a stick of Carefree gum,” which prompts the other girls to applaud. A tennis ball comes flying out of a machine and nearly hits Cher in the face, which causes her to call the machine a “lawsuit waiting to happen.” Dionne is called up to hit the ball next, but she insists that she has a note from her tennis instructor detailing that she is not allowed to take tennis from any outside instructors. When Ms. Stoeger, the gym teacher, calls Amber up, Amber has an excuse as well, that her plastic surgeon advised her not to do any activities “where balls fly at my nose.” Dionne jokes, “Well there goes your social life,” and a few of the girls snicker as Ms. Stoeger rolls her eyes.
They are interrupted by the principal who walks over to Ms. Stoeger accompanied by a new student. The principal introduces the new girl as “Tai Frasier”; Tai waves awkwardly at the other girls in the class. They glare at her skeptically, judging her baggy pants and plaid shirt. As Amber laughs at Tai’s appearance, Cher turns to Dionne and tells her that it is her mission to help transform Tai, who she labels as “clueless.” Dionne is unconvinced, suggesting that befriending Tai would make their [social] “stock plummet.” Cher is disappointed in Dionne, frowning and saying, “Don’t you want to use your popularity for a good cause?” They call Tai over, who asks where she can score an herbal refreshment—slang for marijuana—but Tai and Dionne misunderstand her to mean tea and invite her to lunch. When Dionne tells her that the school has “coke,” she thinks Dionne means cocaine.
The scene shifts to show kids walking down the sidewalks at the school, as Cher narrates the different social sectors of the high school, showing Tai “the ropes.” First, she points out the students who run the TV station, who think it’s “the most important thing on earth.” She then points out the “Persian mafia,” a group of Persian male students, a group which Cher says you cannot join “unless you own a BMW.” Then comes Elton and a group which includes Murray, “all the most popular boys in the school.” Cher says, “If you make the decision to date a high school boy, they are the only acceptable ones,” but when Tai asks which one is her boyfriend, Cher is appalled, and Dionne clarifies that Cher doesn’t want to date a high school boy. Murray then runs up alongside Dionne, and asks her for $5. Dionne is not amused, as he has called her “woman” again, but Murray apologizes and says, “Okay, but, street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic undertones,” which seems to pacify Dionne. Tai is impressed, telling them that they talk like grown-ups, to which Cher informs her that “this is a really good school.” Dionne agrees that Tai is nice, and Cher squeals in delight: “Project!”
We see a closeup shot of soda machines in a cafeteria as “My Iron Lung” by Radiohead plays. We see Travis and Tai in line, picking up cafeteria food, and Travis looks skeptically at the food, saying it looks disgusting, which makes Tai laugh. He compliments her binder and she compliments the stickers on the bottom of his skateboard. When Travis outlines his plans to remove all the stickers and just have a sticker of Marvin the Martian, Tai is overjoyed, telling him, “I can do Marvin the Martian!” She shows him a drawing she did of Marvin the Martian on her binder. Travis is very impressed with Tai’s doodles, asking her if she traced her drawings and telling her that she’s good at drawing.
The scene shifts to Cher and Dionne eating lunch, each wondering if their lunch items are fat free. Tai comes and sits down with them, giving them each Diet Cokes and telling them she met a “really cool guy.” She describes his long hair, sense of humor, and his offer of marijuana on their first meeting. Seeing Travis from afar, she points him out to Cher and Dionne. Travis struggles to balance a number of chip bags on his skateboard as he waves to them, dropping the chips. Cher turns to Tai, suddenly concerned, “Are you talking about drugs?” she asks, before giving Tai a lecture: “It is one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day.” Cher then points out the “loadies” sitting on the grass nearby—students who smoke a lot of weed and only sometimes come to class—and insists to Tai that “no respectable girl actually dates them.” Tai nods her head, understanding Cher’s point. Cher then becomes overjoyed at the thought of giving Tai a makeover. Dionne gasps and tells a skeptical Tai that “Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover.” Tai finally agrees, saying, “Shit, you guys, I’ve never had straight friends before.” Cher and Dionne hesitantly smile at the realization that they are Tai’s first non-druggie friends.
A makeover montage. We see red dye flowing down the train of a tub as the song “Supermodel” plays. The camera pans up to show Cher and Dionne washing the red dye out of Tai’s hair, an Tai flings her hair back, splashing water everywhere. We then see Dionne applying makeup to Tai’s face. Tai has curlers in her hair and a scared expression. Then Cher cuts off the bottom of one of Tai’s shirts to make it a belly shirt, which makes Tai self conscious. We then switch back to Dionne putting eyeliner beneath Tai’s eyes, then applying lipstick. We see clothes revolving on automated hangers in Cher’s closet, then Cher holding up a pair of pants to test how they would look on Tai. Then, we see Tai trying on a skirt and a shirt with a large heart on it in front of a mirror, grinning at her transformation, and throwing her arms up in delight.
We see an aerobics instructor leading a buttocks squeezing exercise in close-up on a television, and Cher encourages Tai to follow the instructions. Tai is frustrated, however, saying, “My buns, they don’t feel nothing like steel.” Cher insists that it will get easier if Tai exercises more regularly, and turns off the television. Josh walks into the room and observes the two girls, as Cher tries to help improve Tai’s accent and vocabulary. Cher tells Tai that they will be alternating between exercise tapes, as well as reading one non-school book a week. Cher’s book is called Fit or Fat, while Tai’s is Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Watching from the doorway, Josh is mystified and intrigued by Cher’s latest project. Cher then tells Tai that they should “do something good for mankind or the planet for a couple of hours,” and Josh comes into the room.
After limply introducing Tai to Josh, Cher is struck with inspiration. She abruptly jumps up and asks Josh—the expert in philanthropic engagement—what they should do to help humanity. Josh responds, “How about sterilization?” suggesting that Cher ought not procreate. This makes Tai giggle gleefully, as Cher follows Josh into the kitchen. “What do you think?” she asks him, and he admits that he’s amazed that she’s found someone even more clueless than herself to worship her. “I am rescuing her from teenage hell. Do you know the wounds from adolescence can take years to heal?” Cher retorts. As Josh makes a sandwich, he accuses Cher of turning Tai into a Barbie doll, but Cher is undeterred. She tells him that “her life will be better because of me.” When they go back into the room where they left Tai, she is watching television and singing along to a Mentos commercial. Josh says his goodbyes, and Cher smiles at her new project.
At school, the other students gawk at Tai, unable to believe how different she looks. Cher and Dionne are overjoyed at the new positive attention that Tai is receiving, and Tai smiles. Travis comes up to the group and hands Tai a flyer, which she accepts happily. It’s a flyer for a party in the valley, and Cher and Dionne dismiss it as a party for “local loadies,” a party that the cops will break up in less than an hour. When Tai asks the girls if they think Travis will be at the party, they scold her for still being hung up on a stoner, urging her not to sell herself short. “You’ve got something going for you that no one in this school has!” says Cher, and Tai comically insists that she is not a virgin. Cher clarifies that Tai has “mystery,” and should use that quality to her advantage. Cher then schemes that Tai ought to go out with Elton, who recently broke up with his girlfriend. Cher tells Tai that Elton was checking her out and that he said she gave him a “toothache.” When Tai doesn’t understand, Cher clarifies that it’s an expression meaning Elton thought she was sweet. Tai is very flattered, and walks away lovesick. When Dionne asks if Elton actually said that, Cher tells her that it was a lie and was just another way for her to matchmake.
In yet another montage, we see Tai try to ingratiate herself into the world of the popular kids. Dionne, Summer, Elton, Amber, and Murray get their picture taken in front of a fountain, as Tai sits close by but somewhat separated from them. Cher then takes a photo of Tai, Amber, Summer, and Dionne. As the camera pans across the group, ending on a confused looking Tai, Cher urges Tai to get closer to Elton in the picture. Cher then tells Elton to put his arm around Tai in the picture, which he does reluctantly. Cher then calls Tai over, handing her a flower and taking some portraits of her. Coming up beside Cher, Elton tells her it’s a “cool picture.” “Doesn’t she look classic?” asks Cher, and Elton agrees, looking closely at Cher. He asks her to make him a copy of the photo she is taking of Tai and walks away. From behind the camera, Cher squeals in delight that Elton is paying such close attention to Tai.
Tai eats dinner at the Horowitz house. Cher introduces Tai to Mr. Horowitz, who immediately yells at Tai to get out of his chair at the head of the table. Lucy, the maid, sets dinner down in front of them, but Mr. Horowitz doesn’t think the food looks very good. Cher insists that it’s meant to lower his cholesterol, as a page from Dionne comes through. He forbids Cher from answering a call during dinner, much to Cher’s dismay. He then asks what Cher did at school, and Cher tells him, “I broke in my purple clogs.” Tai smiles at Cher as Mr. Horowitz picks up his cell phone. Cher takes this as a sign that she can call Dionne. Dionne is at the mall, and tells Cher over the phone that Elton has the picture that Cher took of Tai hanging in his locker. Cher is overjoyed and whispers the news to Tai, who can’t believe it. Dionne then tells Cher that everyone is going to the party in the Valley. Hanging up, Cher tells Tai that “it looks like we’re gonna have to make a cameo at the Val party!” Tai giggles gleefully as we hear Mr. Horowitz screaming into the phone in the background.
We cut to Dionne and Murray in the car, arguing about directions. Dionne is reading the map, but Murray is skeptical and frustrated. We see Dionne's red BMW as it makes its way down the street. We hear Cher in voiceover telling Tai not to say hello to Elton until he greets her, as the car pulls up in front of a house decorated for Christmas. “Talk to someone in his eyeline, preferably a guy, make him come to you,” Cher tells her, as they get out of the car. “And find an excuse to leave while he’s still into the conversation. The key is: always leave him wanting more!” she says, as they make their way towards the house. Travis does a skateboard trick off a railing of the entrance, which Tai watches in awe. After Cher rolls her eyes at the skateboarding trick—“That’s so five years ago”—Travis asks Tai if she wants a beer, which delights her.
Inside the party is smoky and dimly lit. Tai looks excited to be there, and Cher insists that they “do a lap before committing to a location.” Dionne pulls the hair of a girl who is dancing with Murray and begins scolding him. Tai dances around the perimeter of the party with Cher, and points out that Amber is wearing the same dress that Cher was wearing the previous day. “Amber, was that you going through my laundry?” Cher asks, but Amber insists that she would never. The girls engage in a slight tiff, putting down each other’s fashion choices, with Amber finally storming away. “That clone!” Cher bemoans, and Tai begins to comfort her, but they are interrupted by Travis, who spills a drink on Cher. She is very upset, as he has ruined her satin shoes, and Travis tries to make amends by offering her some marijuana. Tai accepts some, as Cher points out that Elton is nearby.
“Act like Travis is saying something funny,” Cher instructs Tai, and the girls each take a hit from the joint. Tai begins laughing hysterically, which makes Travis laugh at first, but he eventually asks her what is so funny, and she assures him, “Nothing.” He looks confused, as Elton comes up behind them and takes the joint from Cher. When Summer enters and tells them that they are going to play “Suck and blow,” the group gladly agrees. Summer sucks a card to her lips, and passes it to Travis, who sucks it to his lips, and passes it to Tai. Tai passes it to Elton and Elton starts to pass it to Cher, but drops the card and begins kissing her. Everyone laughs and applauds, but Cher is not amused. Suddenly they are interrupted by Dionne’s scream. We see Murray getting his head shaved in close-up as he grins, revealing braces. As a friend shaves Murray’s head, Dionne is beside herself, but Murray tells her that he is “keeping it real.” Cher and Tai enter, and Murray uses his friend who is shaving his head, Lawrence, as an example: “Look at Lawrence’s head…it’s the bomb!”
Dionne is upset, lamenting that she has to look at his shaved head, that it’s almost time for yearbook pictures. She then threatens to call Murray’s mother, pulling out her cellphone, and Murray leaps out of the chair in the bathroom to stop her from dialing the number. Lawrence tries to detain her as Dionne begins to call, and Tai and Cher walk away. “That almost destroyed my buzz,” Tai says, while Cher giggles, “I’m still baked!” The party continues: we see an intoxicated high schooler lying down on the front lawn and hear the sound of breaking glass, as the scene shifts to inside where partygoers dance. “What do you say we go bump into people?” Cher asks Tai, and Tai agrees, so they start walking through the party. Travis yells at Tai and jumps from above to greet her, breaking things and falling on his face. Tai bends down, and seeing he’s okay, tells him, “That was so cool the way you did that.” The duo flirt.
Cher is dancing, but turns around to see Tai and Travis talking closely, which does not please her. Pulling Tai over, she points out Elton nearby with a group of people and the girls dance. “Rollin’ with the Homies” plays and Elton looks over at Cher dancing with Tai. Someone kicks off their shoe and it hits Tai in the head, who falls immediately to the ground. Seeing an opportunity, Cher calls Elton over to help revive Tai, and he comes over. Elton carries Tai into the kitchen and lays her on a counter. When Travis runs up with a handful of ice, wanting to help, Cher scolds him that they have it under control. “Tai would have wanted you to enjoy the party,” Cher insists, pushing Travis into the other room. Cher tells Elton that it’s maybe a concussion and that they should ask her questions. Tai sits up on the counter and hits her head again on a light fixture. Elton massages the bump on Tai’s head, asking her if she wants to go back out to the party, and they both dance to “Rollin’ with the Homies.” As they leave, Cher looks pleased with her expert matchmaking.
Cher’s good deed is unusual in that it both immediately benefits her GPA and seems to have a profoundly positive effect on two lonely teachers at her school. In Cher’s idyllic high school, the problem of poor grades is not a matter of working harder or being a more diligent student, but simply a matter of improving the lives of one’s teachers enough so that they lower their standards. If everyone can learn to have a good time and enjoy life, this logic suggests, everyone can enjoy life and have a good time. Cher is generous with her good deeds, and is genuinely touched by seeing her two teachers fall in love, but her initial motive was simply to improve her grade without having to improve her work. Thus, we see a kind of ambiguous morality at play in the movie, in which matchmaking and makeovers take precedent over more substantive projects of self-improvement. Cher is undoubtedly doing good things, making two unhappy people happier, and it is benefitting everyone, including her and her fellow classmates, who have to work less hard at school. What is more important, though? Working hard in school or spreading romance and joy?
Indeed, she is rewarded by her lawyer father for her negotiation skills. Part of the humor of the scene in which Mr. Horowitz evaluates Cher’s report card lies in the fact that it seems as though he is going to scold her for cutting corners, but instead he is proud of her for being able to be so persuasive with her teachers. In his eyes, being persuasive is just as good as being a good student. Additionally, Cher’s initial good deed inspires her to continue helping people, as when she decides to befriend the awkward and homely Tai Frasier. While Dionne worries that befriending such an unkempt classmate will be bad for their social standing, Cher is determined to help Tai, deeming her a lost cause in need of guidance. Yet again, Cher’s motives are slightly off—she takes it upon herself to help a girl become more popular, even though it is unclear if Tai even wants that. While her impulse to help Tai fit in is a generous one at heart, it also leads her to think of Tai as a “project” more than a person. Her helping Tai is predicated on her own sense of self-importance as a member of the popular clique. As Dionne points out, “Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover. It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos.” Cher’s social philanthropy, therefore, comes out of her desire for control.
The film uses montage as a storytelling device throughout, especially in the moments in which Cher does her “good deeds.” When Mr. Hall and Ms. Geist fall in love, we see their budding affection and its positive implact on their students in a montage. Similarly, when Tai gets a makeover, Jill Sobule’s song “Supermodel” plays as we see Tai undergoing a physical transformation—curlers, makeup, new clothes. Then later, when Cher seeks to set up Tai and Elton, we see the popular kids in various activities, as Tai attempts to fit in to their social world. Much like the fast-paced and irreverent comedic tone of the film’s dialogue, the use of montage serves to imbue the movie with a light and positive energy. The music is upbeat and emblematic of the mid-90s, when the film was shot, and we see characters smiling and sharing fun and youthful experiences. The use of montage is both a narrative device and a way of creating an emotional atmosphere, typically fun-filled and cheery. In these montages, the characters are carefree and happy. Montages are a typical device used in teen movies, and they serve to keep the action moving quickly, and to keep the mood light, fun and youthful, to match the characters depicted.
In this section of the film, we begin to see the cracks in Cher’s plans to socially orchestrate Tai’s popularity. While Cher is committed to what she believes is a good deed, inviting Tai to spend time with her, and encouraging Tai to pursue a relationship with a popular boy, Elton, it is unclear if that is actually what Tai wants. While Tai is undoubtedly attracted to Elton and flattered to be welcomed into the popular group, she seems much more genuinely interested in Travis, and delights in seeing him. While Cher insists that Tai follow a number of social rules, and play a game of romantic cat-and-mouse with Elton, Tai’s dynamic with Travis is effortless and mutually available, and the two genuinely care for one another. While her benevolent plans sometimes have their intended effect, Cher’s attempts at controlling social interaction also conflict with the actual desires of the people she is trying to help. Yet again, we see the complicated nature of Cher’s desire to do good. Perhaps people need her less than she thinks.
In this section, the film continues to build its absurd and irreverent tone, this time in the iconic setting of the teen house party. While the characters are taking all of the social dynamics very seriously, numerous absurd plot points keep the film light and comedic. When we hear Dionne scream, for example, the viewer expects something dramatic to have happened, but we find that she is just upset about the fact that Murray is getting a haircut. Not only is her hyperbolic reaction humorous, but just the fact that Murray is getting a haircut in the middle of a house party strikes an absurd tone. Their couple’s quarrel gets more and more contentious, as Dionne wonders what their grandchildren will think when they see that Murray had a shaved head in his yearbook photo. Additionally, the scene of Elton rescuing Tai is the result of a comic moment, in which a clog goes flying through the air and hits Tai in the head. This scenario is quite unlikely, and undoubtedly absurd, but it reminds the viewer that they are watching a satire, a send-up of high school social politics.