Monday, April 20, 2009

Reality Bites

Originally uploaded by Rain Noir
Reality Bites starts as four friends graduate from college and enter into X generation angst; however, Lelaina, Vickie, Troy and Sammy think that they are immune to the yuppies that surround them and can conquer life after college. In true X-gen form they all falter and find their own dramas to be caught up in, dramas that remind them they aren’t as different as they think they are.

As a fan of Ben Stiller’s directorial efforts I was really surprised that I didn’t really like Reality Bites. The film felt a bit disconnected to me, with characters that lack motivation – they simply perform tasks because it’s in the script that they do so. A prime example of this is Sammy, the token early 1990’s gay man in the film, until Sammy actually came out to his mother in the film I wasn’t entirely sure he actually was gay, and he apparently came out because the character of Lelaina needed a moment from Sammy for her documentary. Sammy seems to exist in the film to be the “other” in the film, if Zahn hadn’t been in there they probably would have cast a young black actor just to have some sort of diversity amongst the friends.

I think that Lelaina’s character is actually a very large reason that I couldn’t get into Reality Bites. Going into the film I knew that the main character was a struggling female filmmaker; I think I expected to feel some sort of empathy with Lelaina because she and I are pursuing such similar goals – but I felt nothing for Lelaina. Lelaina is pretentious, argumentative, unmotivated and otherwise directionless; she isn’t close to her parents, gets everyone but Sammy mad at her, and looks down her nose at everyone except herself.

I think that Reality Bites shows definite signs of being a first feature, and obviously Stiller went through the roof; this past year he even did one of the best directorial jobs with Tropic Thunder. More than anything, Reality Bites is mired down by the time period it tried so hard to be relevant to and comment on, and though your opinion may differ I don’t think the gen X angst manages to transfer too well to today.

Director: Ben Stiller
Written By: Helen Childress
Lelaina: Winona Ryder
Troy: Ethan Hawke
Vickie: Janeane Garofalo
Sammy: Steve Zahn
Michael: Ben Stiller

Michael Grates: Have I stepped over some line in the sands of coolness with you? Because excuse me if somebody doesn't know the secret handshake with you.
Troy Dyer: There's no secret handshake. There's an IQ prerequisite, but there's no secret handshake.

1 comment:

Bree said...

Hi. Been catching your blog here and there for a while - I think I found you 'cause you'd linked a photo I uploaded from the film Prey for Rock 'n' Roll. By the way, though I'm touched at the credit, I totally stole the image from somewhere else on the web. Just so's you know...

Anyway thanks for your work here; it's a great concept for a blog, and I find that your entries are always thoughtful and well-written.

I agree on Reality Bites. It's flat and was irrelevant the moment it was released. I want so much to love these characters, being a popculture-obsessed Gen-Xer myself, but I don't, because they are all self-involved without much self-awareness. The thing that irks me the most about the story is the tired antagonism between Ryder and Hawke's characters, as if we've never seen the "I hate you so much I love you" routine before, and as if that's such a sacrosanct blueprint for finding true love. Add in the even more tired love triangle with Stiller's character, and you've got a '90s gloss on every love story cliché in the book.

Take care, and I look forward to more from you!