There sit many movies in my collection that have never been seen by my eyes. Reality Bites is one that comes highly recommended from Corey Starr, and, after doing Top Five Movies of the ‘90s, it felt like the time was right. This Ben Stiller directed film manages to feel like a ‘90s movie while encapsulates the struggles of idealistic college graduates in modern day. So, despite the look and references to the decade the film was made it holds up pretty well.
Reality Bites is true to it’s name and still feels relevant
Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder) is an aspiring documentary filmmaker is experiencing the reality of life after college in Houston. One of her friends, Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke), has to crash on Vickie Miner’s (Janeane Garofalo) and her couch as he tries to make it as a musician. The love triangle forms as Lelaina meets Michael Grates (Ben Stiller) who is an up and coming executive at an MTV-esque TV network.
Ben Stiller as an actor doesn’t always work. His style of comedy doesn’t work for my taste most of the time. However, his dramatic roles and, more importantly, his directing seems to work quite well. His role in this film is predominantly enjoyable, although his best is still The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, except an argument with Troy later in the film that feels artificial. Yet, his ability to capture humanity in this movie and pull the audience in without needing anything over-the-top is impressive.
This is also one of Ryder’s best performances. She is still a bit quirky, but not as much as she has been in other roles. This character actually fits her perfectly and allows her to be sympathetic and compelling. Hawk, Garofalo, and Steve Zahn all give solid performances, but Ryder really gets the chance to shine. Her charm comes out through the film, but her enraptured look while speaking to a telephone psychic may be the best moment. She looks like she’s been talking to her best friend and when confronted with the excessive phone bill she has no choice but to lash out.
Reality Bites was one that was easy to sleep on for all these years. It was put on and not initially given 100% of my attention. However, as the film went on I found myself drawn into it and my phone slowly made it’s way to the table as the characters compelled me and earned my focus. It’s not a film that will likely appeal to everyone, but definitely features some solid performances and characters that are engaging. Reality Bites earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.