Generation X Graduates face life after college with a filmmaker looking for work and love in Houston.
Release Year: 1994
Rating: 6.3/10 (21,327 voted)
Stars: Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo
In this study of Generation X manners, Lelaina, the valedictorian of her college class, camcords her friends in a mock documentary of posteducation life. Troy is her best friend, a perpetually unemployed musical slacker. Vickie is a manager at the Gap who worries about the results of an AIDS test, while Sammy has problems grappling with his sexuality. When Lelaina meets Michael, an earnest video executive who takes her homemade video to his MTV-like station, she must decide what she values–the materialism of yuppie Michael or the philosophical musings of Troy.
Helen Anne Pierce
Joe Don Baker
(as Renee Zellweger)
Eric Morgan Stuart
(as Eric Stuart)
Barry Del Sherman
(as Barry Sherman)
A comedy about love in the '90s.
Release Date: 18 February 1994
Filming Locations: Houston, Texas, USA
Did You Know?
The psychic friend who Lelaina calls is voiced by Ben Stiller's real-life sister, Amy Stiller.
Michael crashes into Lelaina's car on the left-hand side. After she visits him at his office, she is shown getting out of her car with Vickie at their apartment – yet the car is in perfect condition without any dents.
[On answering machine]
At the beep, please leave your name, number, and a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma, and we'll get back to you
Third Review… and I think I finally get it.
The first time I reviewed "Reality Bites" I was 15, and I had missed
much of the film's point, praising it without critique. The second time
was after viewing the film again a year later, upon which I began to
notice things that I had naively ignored, such as just what
self-centred people the characters were. I re-reviewed it, this time
with an overly negative response. It was not until my third watching,
and third review, of the film that I returned to my initial opinion,
this time with reasons rooted in aspects of the film it had taken me 2
years to spot.
Comedy star Ben Stiller is most well known for his comic portrayals of
characters cursed with incredibly bad luck (see Meet the Parents,
There's Something about Mary, Zoolander). His career as a director is
not nearly as extensive as that of his acting, although he has appeared
in every film he's directed. For those wondering, it all started in
1994, with romantic comedy "Reality Bites".
Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, a fresh-faced college graduate who
works a frustrated job as assistant producer for a cheesy talk show,
while in her own time she enjoys filming her friends Vicky (Janeane
Garofalo), Sammy (Steve Zahn) and good-looking rebel Troy (Ethan Hawke)
in an amateur documentary on the disenfranchised lives of Generation X
called 'Reality Bites'. In a mild car accident she meets Michael
(Stiller), a sweet-hearted businessman, and they begin a romantic
relationship, from which sparks talk of taking her documentary to the
commercial network Michael works for. Amidst this, tensions between
Lelaina and Troy begin to rise as his feelings for her become
"Reality Bites" is the kind of film that is prone to misperception. The
movie has an under-the-radar subtlety to it that was widely missed even
by advocators of the film. While the characters are given sensitive
treatment in the script and in performance, they are also portrayed
with the hidden agenda of satirizing the generation they exemplify and
the culture of that generation. On one level this is apparent: the
constant 90's culture references, quotes such as Troy's response to
promptings from Lelaina while documenting him: "I am not under any
orders to make the world a better place". The more hidden layer of
subtlety comes in the form of the film's general Hollywood treatment
and product placement: the film makers chose a undeniably commercial
approach to a subject that is widely presented as such (life and love
in the 1990's), while the specific matters and characters in the movie
were based around independent and "un-commercial" philosophy. This
means the film is, by its very nature, ironic on more than one level.
Critics of the film were mostly irritated by the main characters'
stereotypical personalities and subsequently found them to be boring.
This misses another of the film's points: the characters are
deliberately stereotypical and too often were the naïve and
condescending opinions of these characters, namely Lelaina and Troy,
mistaken for the morals of the film. "Reality Bites" doesn't believe
that Lelaina is a genius documentarian, it doesn't believe that Troy is
a brilliant and secretly reliable guy and it doesn't believe Michael
deserves the rotten deal he gets. It just shows how this kind of
cultural mentality plays out in practice.
That being said, one very straight-forward quality of the film is the
acting performances. All four members of the lead cast do excellent
jobs; they nail their characters with succinct accuracy. Ethan Hawke is
the stand out performance, as the brooding and condescending Troy, a
character most unlike any of the others he has played before or since.
Ryder is at her best here, in a performance topped only by that of
Girl, Interrupted. Stiller, too, delivers solidly, even if the role is
very similar to others he has played.
"Reality Bites" may strike a resonate note of realism for members of
Generation X, but that really isn't its ultimate goal. Essentially this
is a film that doesn't necessarily wear its heart on its sleeve, but
serves as moderately engaging entertainment of a slightly more
insightful nature than others of its kind.