Saturday, November 20

Reality Bites

A Comedy About Love In The 90's

So another 'Retro Review' for you. I actually had a reason for picking this one - this is sort of my life right now. I'm a 20 something, recently finished university and am trying to work out what to do next. The film came out in 1994 (16 years ago) and yet so many aspects still resonate today.

'Reality Bites' follows a group of 'generation X' graduates - Lelaina (Winona Ryder) the valedictorian and aspiring documentary filmaker, Troy (Ethan Hawke) Lelaina's perpetually unemployed, musician and slacker best friend, Lelaina's housemate Vickie (Janeane Garofolo) who is a manger at The Gap and Sam (Steve Zahn) who is still trying to deal with his sexuality - as they question "what next?". 

I have a selection of films that I save to watch on those nights when no matter what I do I can’t get to sleep. I know them so well, and love them so much that I can watch them half asleep at 3am and still relay all the words. They even help me sleep. ‘Reality Bites’ is one of those films, it has always been the typical, 3am love story that sent me to sleep with a smile, that is until recently. I’ve mentioned it many times already but this year I finished University and everything (sort of expectedly) changed. It’s strange how a couple of days/exams/certificates change your perception of one of your favourite films, I think if anything it’s made me like it more.

This film really resonates with me at the moment. I’m 23 years old like Lelaina, recently finished University and trying to get my ‘stuff’ together. You graduate and you immediately feel this incredible pressure to do something, right now. At first you turn down jobs/gifts/BMW’s because of your moral standpoint, you sanctimoniously tell people that you don’t want ‘a job at the Gap’ and then you go for interview after interview and they either tell you’re overqualified, under qualified or ask you to define ‘irony’ or tell them 'your biggest weakness'. It’s one of the most disheartening experiences ever – slowly seeing your hopes and aspirations fade, as you start relying on horoscopes/psychic hotlines and buying everything with your Boots/Sainsbury’s/Gas station points. Hmm, yeah. Like I said I can relate, I think the thing is most people can – most people have come out of a huge life-changing experience, whether it be a university degree or not, and thought “Oh, bugger. Now what do I do?” as everyone else around you seems so put together and mellow – like Lelaina says "There are people I went to high school with that are married with children. I mean, babies, ok? I can't even take care of a Chia pet".

“My Goal is to …  like a career, or something”

So you’re done with Uni, you’ve got a degree and you have a million and one responsibilities coming at you from all over the place (you are a Gradult). All of a sudden you can’t relate to people a couple of months younger than you, let alone years. Yet people older than you treat you like you’re are still a child and tell you to wait until you join ‘the Real World’, when and where exactly does this ‘Real World’ begin? And that, that is why I – and I think many people all over the internet, including the IMDB page – love this film because, and I repeat, I can relate to so many aspects of the film. Although, I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘THIS IS MY LIFE!!111!!!, like one of the IMDB posters, it’s not that far off at the moment right down to the super, baggy pyjama bottoms.

As a result of the past two paragraphs you’ll be forgiven for thinking this is a film about that old cultural favourite ‘rites of passage’, but it is in actual fact a comedy, and a romantic one at that. Lelaina is at the centre of a bit of a love line ('love triangle' is the most annoying, incorrect saying ever), she is choosing between two very different men.

Michael is sweet (if not a little 'spacey'), he has a job, he owns a car and he encourages Leilana's work. Despite all that I find him incredibly boring. Don't worry that's sort of the point.

On the other hand there is Troy, the college drop out who thinks he's too intelligent for anyone unworthy of his time (like Michael). Troy (who is far too cool and existential to dance to 'My Sharona' in a gas station, even when completely stoned) sleeps on Leilana and Vicky's sofa - that is whenever he isn't sleeping in a random girl's bed, he's in an ironic band, he hides his dirty underwear in their laundry and he judges anyone he doesn't think is cool or clever enough. Mostly he's a bit of a self-righteous arse, which is where the problem lies - he is strangely attractive. Apparently this is the sign of me not being completely grown up yet, although if you are properly grown up and you still find him incredibly attractive I think you need to consider your judgement. I'm not quite 'grown' enough to have the benefit of hindsight in this particular situation, but I've been told that these are the sort of boys we live to regret dating and wonder why we didn't stay with the Michael types. Another reason why I find this film so relatable - I imagine at a certain point this is the kind of thing that becomes a non-issue, but at 23 years old this is a dilemma - you'd (or at I'd) choose the wrong one - Troy - and live to regret it, but you'd learn from it and move on.

I don't think you can even call this a review at this point, it's mostly a stream of thought as to why right now I love 'Reality Bites' more than ever.

Look, I think you can tell I love this film. It's billed as a romantic comedy, but it's so much more than just that. It's about reaching that point where you stop and think "oh bugger. What now?". When you realise you are expected to make a million adult decisions, without actually being considered an adult and not knowing quite sure when you will become one. And that's pretty scary, but sometimes it's nice to know that you aren't the only person that feels like that, even if the other person is a fictional character played by Winona Ryder.

"But the question remains. What are we going to do now? How can we repair all the damage we inherited? Fellow graduates, the answer is simple. The answer is ... I don't know."

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