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Reality Bites (1994)

A comedy about love in the 90s.

Directed by:

Ben StillerBen Stiller

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 99 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United States

By rights, ‘Reality Bites’ shouldn’t really have the reputation it has. Now ten years old, it’s become revered as something of a cult classic, lauded by its fans as the movie that spoke for a generation. In fact, you’ll be hard pushed to find a single review of it that doesn’t include the phrase “Generation X” somewhere along the line. Hell, I’ve just done it myself – and I’d promised myself I wouldn’t. But I can’t help but feel that, stripped of its hyped faux relevance, it possesses little to suggest it’s anything more than a generic, if slightly above-average, rom-com.

It’s typical young-attractive-people-in-love-triangle stuff. Lelaina (Winona Ryder) has just graduated Uni, and she captures that increasingly common post-student annoyance perfectly in that she’s now unable to get herself a decent job. So she spends her days making home videos of questionable quality and hoping that one day they’ll pave the way to a career in documentary-making. Remarkably (given how resoundingly poor her films are), her dream looks like it could be about to come true when she meets yuppie go-getter Michael (Ben Stiller), a rising hot-shot with MTV doppelganger ‘In Your Face’.

Michael promises to show her tape to his bosses but, more importantly, the pair are soon dating. Not best pleased with these developments is Troy (Ethan Hawke), Lelaina’s sometime lodger, sometime best friend, and full-time soap-dodging couch-surfing waster. He’s secretly got the man-sweats for Lelaina, and is more than happy to act the spoiled brat in order to prove it.

So, who should she choose? Well, in any sane world it would be Michael, a thoroughly decent bloke who’s also willing to do a bit of work to get somewhere in life. But, in the world of ‘Reality Bites’, our hero is supposed to be Troy, a rude, arrogant, wispy-bearded dullard who appears to spend each and every day wearing exactly the same t-shirt. Apparently, you see, he’s the good guy here, because he’d rather simultaneously sponge off AND look down his nose at those who dare even attempt to achieve any level of success. What a guy!

Much of the story just doesn’t ring true, particularly as we’re shown little evidence of the supposed friendship between Troy and Lelaina (they spend most of their scenes together rubbing each other up the wrong way). The ending is a cut-and-paste job from countless other romantic comedies, only with the added annoyance of being wholly unsatisfying.

Thankfully, Ben Stiller’s first attempt at feature-length direction is funny in places, decently performed and generally entertaining enough to gain pass marks – but it’s certainly nothing special.

It's Got: A pre-‘Bridget’ Renee Zellweger in blink-and-you’ll-miss-her mode as one of Troy’s throwaway conquests.

It Needs: An updated version, just to let us know whether or not Troy’s had a wash yet.

DVD Extras There’s only a trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Chasing Amy, The Breakfast Club

Summary

What is reality coming to?

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