Lelaina: I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.
Troy: Honey, all you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.
Reality Bites is a sincere and funny movie about what really awaits us after college. No matter how well we do at the university or how enthusiastic we are about starting out our lives, things almost never quite turn out the way we expect them to be. The movie is from 1994, written by Helen Childress and Ben Stiller.
Lelaina (Winona Ryder) is the class valedictorian. She hangs out with her best friends from college:Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), Sammy (Steve Zahn) and Troy (Ethan Hawke). Each has their own unique set of problems. Sammy has to deal with his sexuality, Vickie has AIDS concerns, Troy is the one with the tortured artist soul- which does make him popular with the ladies but his lack of a job and his negative attitude towards finding one pisses his friends off. After all, good looks and guitar don’t help pay the bills. As for Lelaina, the only job she could find has got nothing to do whatsoever with her ideals and dreams. Things are also complicated in the love department. She and Troy are very close and obviously attracted to each other. But they haven’t done anything about it. However Troy is not pleased when she starts dating Michael (Ben Stiller) – who is the exact opposite of Troy: He has a regular job as a TV executive, he wears suits to work and has a regular paycheck. He is also ready to have straightforward, uncomplicated relationship with her.
Reality Bites has been labeled with more adjectives than I can possibly count. Some of the negatives include outdated and pretentious. I don’t think so. I am amongst the group that finds the movie true to heart. If you are considered some sort of rebel and can’t help thinking outside the box, and have lived a part of your teens/pre-teens in the 90s, this movie hits home. It’s just the icing on top that the movie comes with a good soundtrack.
Not that things have changed so much since the 90s. We are still on the lookout for AIDS and other STDs. We still have hard time after college. Most of us still have a hard trying to convince our parents that we won’t be happy unless we follow our own desired lifestyle.
It’s not hard to identify with the artsy,brooding and broke Troy. Why should we have to work at jobs where we know we will be fired immediately because our hearts weren’t in it in the first place? Or how many times have been in Lelaina’s shoes, where we had to work at some shitty job, for an arrogant, intolerable boss- just because it was remotely related to our dreams or we simply needed the paycheck to pay for our bills and support our dreams? We go through heartbreaks and disappointments, crushes on friends and a million other complicated situations. At the end of the day, all we want is to have our financial independence and live by ourselves and hang out with our friends.
Maybe you are past the whole post-graduation depression where reality truly bites. Well, reality bites most of the time, but some people have given up on their dreams and therefore have no empathy. If you have, you may not enjoy the movie as the rest of us. But if you do remember what it was like and/or if you are still struggling to make sense of things, this is your movie. Trust me.
Here are some pictures and a scene links from the movie.