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Reality Bites is a 1994 comedy drama starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, and Ben Stiller, who also directed the film.
I was 14 in 1994, I loved 'grunge' music and men with long hair, I wanted to be in a band, and I spent a lot of my time wearing leggings and checked shirts. Therefore this film was one of my favourites.
Reality Bites was filmed in only 42 days, and it comes across as quite lo-fi. The plotline is fairly simple, but one that is easy to relate to. It follows 4 friends Leilana, Vickie, Troy and Sammy. Leilana (Ryder), is the main character. Having recently graduated, she now works for a TV show but gets fired after humiliating a TV star live on air. Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) is her promiscuous friend who works for The Gap, whereas Sammy (Steve Zahn) is her male gay friend who is trying to come out to his parents.
Also in the mix is Troy (Hawke), a highly intelligent slacker-type who works on a newsstand and plays in a terrible grunge band called Hey! That's My Bike. He and Leilana have a bond, but after meeting Michael (Stiller), a bland cable channel executive, she starts dating him, and her and Troy's relationship falls apart.
The basis of the film is Leilana filming her friends' lives in order to make a documentary about them. They're all young, unsure about the future, and realising that yep, reality really does bite.
This film is VERY of its time, focusing on Gen X in the 1990s. The issues covered are also very '90s - going from dealing with divorced parents, coming out as gay, getting tested for AIDS, and not knowing where to go in life during the period between leaving University and having to venture into the 'real' world.
At 14, I really wanted to have their cool life - dancing in gas stations and hanging out in their kooky shared house eating pizza. At that age I didn't realise how painfully true the film would be about life post-University when you have to try to find a job that you don't hate without compromising your true self.
It's funny watching it again now, because before you always were automatically rooting for Troy and Leilana to get together. He was cool, cynical, sarcastic, with long hair and a beard, and a band that played in local bars. In contrast Michael came across as a corporate, cheesy, bore. Now that I'm older I am not sure who I root for - Troy's really a bit of an arse and an intellectual snob.
Winona Ryder, I guess, was the perfect choice to play someone cute, kooky and alternative. Personally she has always gotten on my nerves a tad. Janeane Garofalo is brilliant as Vickie, and Ethan Hawke was pretty great casting as I could just imagine him being like that in real life back then.
Being from 1994, the soundtrack is great, featuring tracks by the likes of The Knack, Squeeze, David Bowie, Dinosaur Jr. and Juliana Hatfield. Reality Bites also spawned the huge hit Stay by Lisa Loeb. The film itself has cameos by Evan Dando of The Lemonheads and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum... right up my teenage grunger street!
I do love this film but watching it now makes me feel old and sad that the 1990s are over. I never did share a house with cool slacker type people (although I have spent many a night in a local bar watching dodgy bands). I learnt myself during my 20s, just as the characters did, that reality bites, so the film is certainly one I can relate to.
I have seen this film countless times, and I *still* keep watching it over. I guess it’s the whole “graduates out in the real world” thing that must appeal to me or something (that and Ethan Hawke of course). It’s not exactly running for best film in the world, but it has a certain attraction for me, which keeps me interested in the characters – finding myself comparing them to previous housemates I’ve had etc… You could dismiss this film as “so 90s” and leave it at that, but I think it is another of those films, which matured me in a way. After I’d got over watching all the 80s American teen movies, I started to wander into a more mature movie-watching arena – the 90s “20 something films”, of which Reality Bites is definitely a member. The film is sort of divided up into two parts – the real life experiences of four friends (Laney, Vickie, Sammy and Troy) living in Houston Texas, and then their videotaped experiences (taped by Winona Ryder’s character Lelaina, who “works in TV”). Lelaina (or Laney) shares a house with Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) who works at The Gap, and occasionally with Troy (Ethan Hawke) the slacker who works at a “Newsstand” and plays in his band “Hey! That’s My Bike!”. Lelaina Pierce (Ryder) was valedictorian of her University, and now she’s having to consider working at “Burgerama”. After majoring in Film (sounds familiar ;-)) she’s graduated, and is out in the real world working on morning breakfast programme “Good morning Grant!” The show is hosted by the irritable “Grant” played by Frasier’s Dad John Mahoney, who dislikes Ryder, leading her to take some rather drastic action whilst he is live on air (also leading to her getting fired). She then has to consider her options – Burgarama, working at The Gap with Vickie, or surviving
until the right job comes along – she chooses the latter. Surviving, however, does involve her obtaining a BMW, buying all her groceries on plastic, and some ingenious cash-flow solutions. The film was directed by Ben Stiller (probably best know for his role as Ted in There’s Something About Mary, and more recently for Meet the Parents co-starring Robert DeNiro). Stiller also acts in it, playing the somewhat laughable character of Michael Grates, Lelaina’s boyfriend. He is a TV executive for MTV-type station “In Your Face TV”, and originally meets Lelaina in a rather unusual way. Laney then starts dating Michael, caught up between Troy’s views that he is “a yuppie cheese-ball”, and her own feelings. Just when she is at her lowest, trying to find a job, or earn money, Michael comes through with an offer of showing her videotapes (based on the lives of her friends) on “In Your Face TV”. All does not go as planned however, and Lelaina ends up turning to someone else for affection, as Michael seems to have made a mockery of her tapes. But, just when she thinks everything is going fine, Troy disappears. Tagged “A comedy about love in the 90s” I think it is a bit more than that, and maybe even a little bit cult. For days afterwards when I first saw it, I would lounge around the house drinking Diet Coke, coming up with smart arsed quotes, and attempting to get everything on videotape. Reality Bites is supposed to be about four young people who have emerged into the “real” world, and don’t like what’s been handed to them. Lelaina gets fired from her job, Troy gets fired from yet another job, Vickie gets promoted, and Sammy has a difficult situation to deal with, with his parents. It has a brilliant soundtrack featuring some classics: - My Sharona – The Knack - When You Come Back to Me – World Party - Locked Out – Crowd
ed House - Turnip Farm – Dinosaur Jr. - Spin The Bottle – Juliana Hatfield Three - Spinning Around Over You – Lenny Kravitz - Bed of Roses – The Indians - I’m Nuthin’ – Ethan Hawke - All I Want Is You – U2 - Stay – Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories - Going Going Gone – The Posies - Revival – Me Phi Me - Tempted – Squeeze This is another film I’ve picked because of the quotes - there are some really good ones in here, as well as lots of popular culture references, such as to the film Cool Hand Luke “Nobody can eat fifty eggs”, various adverts “Welcome to the Maxi Pad”, and the constant product references throughout – Diet Coke, Snickers, Camel Cigarettes etc… Funny moments: - Troy, Vickie and Sammy are on the couch “not inhaling” and Lelaina comes in – the dialogue is great. - Most of Troy’s philosophical speeches Quotes: Troy: Did he dazzle you with his extensive knowledge of mineral water? Or was it his in-depth analysis of, uh, uh, Marky Mark that finally reeled you in? Lelaina: Are you religious? Michael: Um, uh, I guess uh, I guess I'm, uh a non-practicing Jew. Lelaina: Hey, I'm a non-practicing virgin. Lelaina: He's so cheesy, I can't watch him without crackers. Hint: Stay watching at the end, for some funny TV moments where Evan Dando (of the band The Lemonheads) appears briefly. The film also features a cameo by Dave Pirner (of band Soul Asylum) who dated Winona Ryder for some time. Other cameos include: Jeanne Triplehorn as Cheryl Goode (TV host on Fashion programme), David Spade as the fast food manager who interviews Ryder, Renée Zellweger as Tami, Ben Stiller’s sister is the Psychic Phone Partner, and his Mum Anne Meara, plays another of Ryder’s interviewers.
Produced by Danny DeVito, written by Helen Childress who also appears as a waitress. The video is available everywhere, and has recently been in HMV’s sale. Enjoy.
There comes a time when every one has to face reality, and for the people in this film, the time is now. Thay have just finished college and are entering the big bad world for the first time. A group of friends including Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller all learn some hard facts about the real world. There are times of hardship, and times of romance, this film follows their experiences and shows a true account of love and friendship in the 90's. I used to love this film when I was leaving school, I suppose that was because it was easy to relate to. It is funny and romantic in places, it always used to leave me in an up beat mood. This is a good film, I still enjoy it, but its not something to watch if you want a gripping story line. I think it is an easy to watch film, and one I find easy to relax to.