Reality Bites (1994)
Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Ben Stiller
Reality Bites is Ben Stiller’s film directorial debut and the story revolves around a group of Gen X graduates as they face life after college. Lelaina (Ryder) is the valedictorian of her college class lives with her best friends, Troy (Hawke) a philosophical lead singer, Vickie (Garofalo), an employee at the Gap and Sammy (Zahn) who is dealing with the issue of his sexuality. Lelaina then meets Michael (Stiller), a video executive who gives her the opportunity to broadcast the documentary of her friends after graduation . However, will Lelaina and her friends able to find their way around the real world?
The first time I saw this film was when I was around 17, and I could still remember writing a review or my thoughts about the film. Revisiting this film made me realized that the film still has the same effect on me – inspiring, relatable, funny and unique. Although some may say the main characters are stereotypical, but it is evident that the writer had intentionally made it so to bring out the different perspectives together, and enabling audiences to relate to the various characters. All the main characters are rather self-centered, each of them dealing with their own issues, which rings loudly of how almost all 20-somethings feel or are experiencing at one point or the other. Speaking of the script, I have to say I’m still impressed by Helen Childress’ work here – the film is intelligent, funny, romantic (to a certain extent) – with tons of memorable lines, and I would like to believe even as later generations watch this film, people will still be able to relate to the characters irrespective of the generation differences because of the existential/philosophical/quarter-life crisis that everyone is bound to go through.
The other factor that strongly draws me to the story is the actors – Hawke, Ryder, Garofalo, Zahn and Stiller did an amazing job in embodying the characters. If it wasn’t for their solid performances, there is a high chance the movie may not have worked. I was especially impressed by Hawke and Ryder’s performance. Their roles here will always be one of my personal favourites of all time. Ben Stiller also did a wonderful job directing the film, it was a sign of his directing talents for future films. In addition, the soundtrack became another character in the film as it helped build the foundation of the film.
Overall, Reality Bites is a definite film that could withstand the test of time with its relatable characters and crises that most or all 20-somethings could associate with. I would highly recommend everyone to watch this film if you’re looking for something funny, smart and quirky.
Rating: 8 out of 10