CLUELESS, BESIDES BEING THE NAME OF AN ALICIA Silverstone movie loosely based on Jane Austen's novel Emma, was, to be frank, also the way Bill Clinton sounded for a moment last Monday after a White House screening of a new and more classic rendition of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow. The star was in attendance—along with her boyfriend of nearly two years, Brad Pitt—but Chelsea and Hillary, off scouting colleges in New England, missed the event. The President assessed the situation and then earnestly declared that his wife and daughter hated not being there because "they love Jane Austen."

As Silverstone's Clueless character would say: As if!

The night was a kind of crowning achievement for Paltrow, who at 23 not only has Pitt, 32, but also glowing reviews for Emma, a comedy in which she plays an upper-class, 19th-century Englishwoman who can't stop meddling in the love lives of her neighbors. Still, the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and TV producer and director Bruce Paltrow (St. Elsewhere) seemed awed by the presidential screening. Arriving by limo at the East Gate at 7 p.m., Paltrow didn't hide her feelings. "I've been to D.C.," she gushed as she stepped toward the White House in a black Calvin Klein suit, "but never like this." As for Pitt—just back from Ireland, where he was shooting The Devil's Own—he wore a tie, along with scraggly beard and a dark-blue, fashionably rumpled jacket. After cocktails, the screening and an hour of post-movie schmoozing with 50 other guests, he did seem impressed. "I was thrilled," Pitt said. "It was the experience of a lifetime."

Paltrow told PEOPLE, "It's the first movie I've done that I've been honestly thrilled by." And the presidential reaction? "He loved it," she says. Which didn't surprise Pitt in the slightest. "Obviously," he says, "I'm proud of her."