Cher goes for a walk as a cover of “All by Myself” plays. Cher walks down the street, lamenting how wrong she has been about all her intuitions—wrong about Elton, wrong about Christian, and now Josh dislikes her. She comes to the conclusion that she is “totally clueless.” In the middle of her mournful inner monologue, she notices a cute item of clothing in a store window, and rushes in to see if they have it in her size. The scene cuts to Cher walking somewhere else, carrying a shopping bag, and wondering about Tai: “What does she want with Josh anyway? He dresses funny, he listens to complaint rock, he’s not even cute…in a conventional way.” She then goes on to detail all the reasons Josh is repellant and shouldn’t be attractive to Tai (as scenes of her flirtation with him are played in montage)—how he “hangs around the house all the time,” is a “hideous dancer”—before concluding that he is actually attractive. Returning home after dark, Cher now contemplates what he might see in Tai, determining that she’s not right for him. “Josh needs someone with imagination, someone to take care of him, someone to laugh at his jokes in case he ever makes any,” Cher thinks to herself, before stopping in front of a large fountain and coming to the surprising realization that she loves Josh.
We then see Cher and Josh sitting beside each other on the couch, and Cher narrates that she doesn’t know how to act around him, having discovered that she loves him. Josh eats cereal from the box, while Cher eyes him nervously. Cher realizes that her old tricks—“strutting around in my cutest little outfits and sending myself flowers and candy”—just won’t work on Josh. When Josh offers her some cereal, she anxiously shakes her head and Josh asks, “What’s with you?” When Cher feigns ignorance, Josh presses her—“You haven’t made me watch The Real World." She insists that she cares about the news on television, but he doesn’t believe her. They continue to watch CNN, which shows war-torn Bosnia. “You look confused,” says Josh, and Cher responds, “I thought they declared peace in the Middle East.” Josh smiles at Cher’s naivety.
Later we see Cher in pajamas pacing back and forth in front of her father’s office. He calls her in and asks her why she is pacing, to which she responds that she wanted to see if he needs help. Handing her a highlighter, he tells Cher to highlight every instance of the date “September 3rd” in a deposition book. “Did you ever have a problem that you couldn’t argue your way out of?” Cher asks her father, who insists that if she tells him the problem, they can think of a way to argue out of it. She vaguely tells him that she likes a boy who likes someone else. Mr. Horowitz is disbelieving, telling Cher that “this boy is a moron” as Cher is “the most beautiful girl in Beverly Hills.” Cher insists that the boy is actually pretty smart, and that he’s a do-gooder, which makes her insecure about her own superficialities. Mr. Horowitz insists to Cher that she is hardly superficial and that she takes care of everyone. He finally says, “I have not seen such good-doing since your mother,” which moves Cher. Cher continues to highlight the depositions.
In class, Cher is deep in thought—she needs a makeover, “except this time, I’d makeover my soul.” “But what makes someone a better person?” Cher considers. We see her at an art museum with Christian, who explains his thoughts about an abstract sculpture, as Cher narrates that she began to realize that each of her friends are “good in different ways.” Cher shrugs at the abstract work, as we hear her say that Christian “always wants things to be beautiful and interesting.” We then see Dionne and Murray sitting on a bench together, as Cher narrates, “When they [Dionne & Murray] think no one is watching, [they] are so considerate of each other.” The couple kisses. Then Ms. Geist stands beside a television showing a video about the Pismo Beach disaster, and we are back in Cher’s classroom, as Cher sympathizes that Ms. Geist is “always trying to get us involved no matter how much we resist.” Turning off the television, Ms. Geist attempts to get her students to sympathize with the plight of the people in a documentary. Elton raises his hand as if to participate, but simply wants a hall pass. Ms. Geist sits on her desk and announces that they will be collecting various items for a charity soon, and Cher raises her hand: “I want to help.” Ms. Geist is pleased by Cher’s investment, and smiles at her.
We then see Cher taking food items out of a cupboard at her home to donate to the charity. She calls to her father, who sits at the dining room table with lawyers (including Josh), and asks, “You didn’t like that red caviar, did you?” Mr. Horowitz is confused. We then see her going through her closet, pulling out clothes that she doesn’t like any more to donate to charity. Comically, she says “ew!” to certain items before deeming them good choices for donation. She rushes past the dining room with suitcases and bags of food, and the lawyers look up at her efforts with concern—what is she doing? When Mr. Horowitz asks her what she is up to, she is carrying a pillow, skis, and a tennis racket as she replies, “I’m captain of the Pismo Beach Disaster Relief.” “I don’t think they need your skis,” he says, but Cher is shocked at his callousness: “Daddy, some people lost all their belongings, don’t you think that includes athletic equipment?” Mr. Horowitz asks if this is Josh’s influence, and Josh shakes his head, before smiling to himself.
The scene shifts to the exterior of the high school, where students hang a sign abut the disaster relief project. The camera pans down a line of tables advertising different student activities. Amber sits at a table with a banner, “Let’s Talk about Sex, baby,” another girl sits at a “Save the Earth” table, and Cher and Dionne man a crowded table for Pismo Beach Relief. Cher’s social skills perfectly equip her to help Ms. Geist, and she calls large groups over to her table. The scene then cuts to show Cher helping to organize the different donations in a function room at the school. When Ms. Geist approaches her table, Cher proudly tells her that she needs more boxes and that she has divided the food donations into “entrees” and “appetizers.” Ms. Geist is confused but grateful. Just as Cher is struggling to lower a box onto the floor, Travis approaches her table with donations. Cher is grateful for Travis’s donations, and eventually pulls a bong out of his box, eyeing it suspiciously. Acknowledging the bong, Travis says, “I don’t need it anymore, but far be it from me to deny anyone else.” Then, Travis apologizes for ruining Cher’s shoes at the party in the Valley. Cher tells him she completely forgot, but Travis tells her that he is going through a 12-step process, and making amends accordingly. He then hands her a flyer for the “Amateur Skateboarding League,” and invites her to come see him skate on Saturday, to which she agrees. Before he leaves, Cher tells Travis to put the bong in with the kitchenware.
We then see skateboarders doing tricks on a half-pipe as teenagers watch and cheer. Cher gets a coffee from a stand at the rink and is approached by Tai, who wants to talk. Reluctantly, Cher agrees, and the two girls each apologize profusely, Cher for being unsupportive of Tai’s feelings for Josh, and Tai for being so mean. While Tai expresses her gratefulness for Cher being so nice to her as a new student, Cher feels remorseful for ever having tried to set Tai up with “that loser Elton.” The girls agree never to fight again, and embrace, making amends. Next, Travis Birkenstock prepares to skateboard, and the girls take their seats in giddy anticipation. Travis skates, doing impressive tricks on the half-pipe, and Tai cheers for him. In the first round, he receives positive scores from the judges. Cher notices how much affection Tai feels for Travis, and narrates, “When I saw the sparks between Tai and Travis, I knew Josh was out of the picture.”
We then see Josh and Cher highlighting depositions at the dining room table. Josh teases Cher’s pigtails, telling her she looks like Pippi Longstocking. She retorts that his hair looks like Forrest Gump, before asking who Pippi Longstocking is. “Someone Mel Gibson never played,” Josh says, and one of the other lawyers looks over at them, noticing their flirtatious rapport. Josh watches Cher as she plays with her hair, but the other lawyer interrupts them to ask where a group of files are. Cher tells him that she checked them for “September 3rd” and divided them into two piles, embarrassed by her apparent mistake. “What are you, some kind of idiot?” asks the high-strung lawyer. Josh comes to her defense, as the lawyer gets more and more frustrated. “Just go back to the mall or something,” says the lawyer, which sends Cher running out of the room. Josh gets angry at the lawyer, who calls Cher a “moron.” Before leaving, the lawyer tells Josh, “If you hadn’t been busy playing footsie with the dumb kid, she wouldn’t be bothering me.” Josh is indignant, but the lawyer insists that Cher and Josh were flirtatious, before telling him that he’s calling in sick, and storming out of the house.
Josh slams the door behind him and finds Cher pouting at the top of the stairs. Josh comforts Cher, saying that she didn’t mess up her father’s lawsuit, and assuring her that he will take care of it. He then disparages the angry lawyer for making Cher feel so bad. “It was a good learning experience, at least for me, I want to be a lawyer,” Josh says, before suggesting that Cher go out and have fun shopping. Cher is somewhat offended, and says, “You think that’s all I do? I’m just a ditz with a credit card?” Josh backtracks, and tells Cher that she is young and beautiful, but stumbles over his own words awkwardly. “You think I’m beautiful?” she asks. Laughing, Josh says, “You know you’re gorgeous, alright?” Sensing that he is saying too much, Josh defensively tells her that he comes to the house to work on the depositions, because it’s a good learning experience; he does not come there to see her. “You already said that,” says Cher smiling. When Josh says that Mr. Horowitz is the only person who cares about him, Cher assures him that that’s not true, prompting him to ask her if she cares about him. When she goes to playfully tap him, he holds her face and kisses her. They smile at each other and continue to kiss at the top of the stairs. “You can guess what happens next,” Cher narrates.
The scene suddenly flashes to a wedding, and we hear Cher joke, “As if! I’m only 16! And this is California, not Kentucky.” In close-up, we see that it is Ms. Geist and Mr. Hall’s wedding, which everyone attends. The couple kisses and walks down the aisle triumphantly. Dionne sits with Murray, Tai with Travis, and Ms. Stoeger the gym teacher cries from her seat in joy. Cher, a bridesmaid, waves at Josh. At a reception table, Dionne, Tai, and Cher talk about their own weddings. Tai wants a floral motif, but Dionne interrupts her to say that she wants a sailor dress when she gets married. The boys—Travis, Murray, and Josh—look on skeptically. Ms. Stoeger runs over to tell the girls that Ms. Geist is about to throw the bouquet and Dionne and Tai run to join. Turning to Cher, Josh tells her that the boys have a pool going about which one’s girlfriend will catch the bouquet, and that he wants her to participate, so that he has a chance to win the $200 at stake. “It’s in the bag,” Cher says, pressing her forehead to his. Ms. Geist stands holding the bouquet, as the female characters in the movie wait for her to throw it. When Ms. Geist throws it, Cher initially catches it, but drops it for a moment. The women all engage in a chaotic scuffle, with Cher eventually re-obtaining the bouquet. She kisses Josh triumphantly as the credits begin.
It is at the start of this section that Cher catches up to the audience and realizes what we already know: just how “clueless” she really is. Cher’s greatest flaw throughout the movie has been believing that she knows better than other people, believing that she can manipulate social situations for the best possible outcome. While her plans are perhaps rooted in a desire to do good and to help her community, they also blind her to the reality of the situation in many cases, making her “clueless.” Cher prides herself in knowing “what’s best,” but sometimes what’s best doesn’t work out, and often enough, it’s not what’s best for her. The conclusion of the movie finds Cher coming to terms with her own blind spots and intuitive failures. In attaching so firmly to her self-image as a benevolent overseer of her social world, Cher has lost her way and lost her ability to listen to her true desires.
It is not until Cher admits to herself that she is “clueless” that she can begin to get a clue, and much to her surprise, she learns just how much she likes Josh. In true romantic comedy style, the boy who has seemed the least viable, the least desirable, ends up finding his way into the protagonist’s heart. Romantic comedies thrive on the eventual love interests having a sparring or playfully contentious relationship. Finally, the sparring is acknowledged as signaling their profound attraction to one another. Such is the case in Clueless, as Cher realizes that her disdain for Josh is actually a sign of her deep affection for him. She doesn’t want Tai to date Josh because she herself is attracted to him. Having repressed her own desire for Josh throughout the film, Cher is finally ready to admit it to herself. Cher’s attentions have focused on what is best for other people precisely because she has repressed her own desires.
Even in this dramatic moment of realization, the film maintains its goofy, ironic tone. While the viewer is privy to Cher’s inner monologue throughout, it is not until now that she takes a moment to engage in real contemplation. It is a humorous sight, Cher walking around Los Angeles aimlessly in designer clothes as the melodramatic song “All by Myself” plays. It takes Cher a while to catch up with the viewer, who has already received enough clues about her feelings for Josh. She even interrupts her own contemplation to visit a boutique and buy some new clothes. While we see that Cher is willing to be reflective in this moment, it does not take away from her girlish tendencies, and a new piece of clothing still catches her eye. Additionally, the moment when she arrives home, standing in front of the lavish Beverly Hills fountain in her driveway and realizing she loves Josh, strikes both an earnest and a comic nerve. The dramatic moment is a reference to the classic film Gigi, in which a character makes a dramatic decision in front of a Parisian fountain. The fountain in Cher’s driveway is lit by gaudy pink neon lights, and her realization is quaint and teenaged—a massive crush on the boy she thought she hated. The framing of the realization as both exciting and comic proves once again that director Amy Heckerling never takes her subject too seriously.
The comic differences between Cher and Josh are highlighted even more vividly once it is revealed that she is in love with him. Startled by this realization, Cher loses her sense of self, and attempts to endear herself to Josh by watching CNN with him and putting on airs of being more substantive, more than just a popular girl who likes to shop. This pretension, however, doesn’t work with Josh, who is skeptical of Cher’s newfound desire to appear bookish and concerned. When he confronts her about her confusion about the footage of war in Bosnia, she reveals her ignorance—“I thought they declared peace in the Middle East.” Cher’s naive statements about world politics are inaccurate and make Josh laugh at her. Later, she tells her father that the boy she likes is a “do-gooder type” and that she feels like her “after-school commitments aren’t good enough,” but he advises her to be herself, and that she is already a good-doer, and a helpful, loving person. As Josh and Cher’s affection is revealed more and more, we realize that it is precisely their difference that so attracts them to one another, but that they both share an unexpected common desire to do good. Cher loves Josh for all of his undergraduate progressive idealism, and Josh loves Cher for her guilelessness and willingness to help. They both share a profound sense of right and wrong, which connects them.
While the film maintains its satirical tone throughout, it ultimately has a moral point of view, and seeks to come to a semi-profound and feel-good conclusion. When Cher realizes her own virtues, and seeks to “makeover” her soul, she contemplates the virtues of her various friends. “Then I realized all my friends were good in different ways,” she narrates, and we see a montage of Cher’s various companions doing what they do best. Cher’s love for Josh not only allows her to look more objectively at her own talents and virtues, but also those of the people around her. In this way, the film communicates to the viewer that everyone should be valued for their own unique skills. Being popular is less important than being oneself, and celebrating one’s own difference. While Cher sought to change people at the start of the film, to negotiate her way to a better grade, or to help a lonely girl ascend the social ladder, by the end of the film, Cher has backed off her controlling campaign. Instead of changing people, she now seeks to appreciate them.