Who else loved this flick as much as I did? It was so relevant at the time, so topical! These guys were the original “Hipsters”, so when Deepika from Movie Anatomie approached me about writing a piece about this 90’s classic, I couldn’t say no.
Reality Bites (1994) Movie Review
I, basically, did a simple math. I love watching movies, and I love to write. What shall I do for a living that will encompass these two elements and provide me with some money to survive? Yes, you guessed it right, being a film critique. Now, not knowing where will this lead me, I picked up the laptop one day and started reviewing movies that inspired me. Today, I am so glad to say that it led me to Reads & Reels, where I am going to review a movie for you that encourages people to be authentic and be their true selves. Could reality be any good?
Hello! To all Reads & Reels’ fans from Movie Anatomie where curtains are raised from movies that artistically change our outlook. So, what better can I offer to review, other than one of my favourite movies of all time ‘Reality Bites’. This movie is directed by the first time director, Ben Stiller and first time screenplay writer, Helen Childress. Starring none other than Winona Ryder, the actress who played the mother of Will Byers in the series Stranger Things, against ever authentic and sexy Ethan Hawk and extremely talented Ben Stiller. Yes, the enigma of this film doesn’t end here with its odd choice of cast.
It flows on to its unusual rhythm and choice of themes. But, even before I dive into that, I would like to take a quick second to clear the meaning of ‘reality bites’. Here, the writer Helen Childress means ‘bits of reality’, instead of reality being ‘gloomy’ or ‘depressing’. ‘Reality Bites’ is referred to the ‘bits of reality’ that the protagonist, Lelaina Pierce, played by Winona Ryder, tries to capture in her documentary about her friends who are trying to find their way in life. In short, the audience witnesses the reaction of four friends to the “real world”, which has always proven itself to be a difficult place to prove one’s self-worth, even if one had been the valedictorian of their class.
Lelaina, who once- yes, you guessed it, the valedictorian, though is portrayed smart, ambitious and with an artistic vision, is undervalued in her job. In fact, later, she gets even fired. Troy Dyer, is played by Ethan Hawke. He is the character I fell in love with. He is an extremely intelligent, philosophical by nature and a musician in a coffee bar, who got fired from a series of jobs and didn’t feel like completing his graduation- don’t question my choice. He falls in love with Lelaina and her true artistic vision, but fumbles to commit. Vickie (played by Janeane Garofalo), Lelaina’s apartment mate and her best friend, is only added in the movie to show the real-life threat that hovers human life- being vulnerable to diseases, such as HIV. Further ultimately, Sammy Gray (played by Steve Zahn), Lelaina’s another friend, is only added in the plot to show the intolerance of people towards gays. After viewing this movie, no, you are not going to have an epiphany or answers to the world crisis, but this movie very subtly will reveal the distinction between the real world and a protected world of a student.
This movie also shows how an artist’s visions usually struggles to survive in the cold world of capitalism. The only answer this movie manages to offer is that there is no point in pondering about bigger questions like, recession (that plagued that era in particular) or world hunger. Instead, it suggests its audience to dive within themselves and make authentic choices that in turn, will affect the life they lead and the lives of people surrounding them- not bad right? They show this through the love triangle between Lelaina, Troy and Michael Grates (played by Ben Stiller). Personally, I loved the development of the characters through the progression of the plot. This movie very effortlessly highlight the different relationship dynamics amongst every individual, making it quite close to reality, which is a very difficult thing to achieve. I agree with Winona when she says in one of her interviews about this movie, ”I found it very true to life.”
Further, it was quite hard to overlook the brilliant life-like performance by all the actors. Especially, Winona and Eithan who shared the major part on-screen time. To be honest, I have been a huge fan of Winona Ryder’s work since her movie Edward Scissorhands- do you remember this classic movie? Though I love her acting in Stranger Things, I was just getting a little tired and annoyed, seeing her only act as a frantic woman/mother to Will. All I mean is this actress has a real talent, and this movie explores those talents and takes advantage of her range of acting. Do I even have to point out what an amazing actor is Eithan Hawk? He has never taken up a role that he didn’t believe in, which reflects in his acting.
I might come out a little harsh, but I think Ben Stiller’s directing career started with this film and ended here. Yeah, I know, he directed the film, like The Cable Guy where Jim Carrie was the lead actor. I love Jim Carrie, but that film didn’t impress me that much. He also directed the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which had beautiful visuals, I wouldn’t deny, but the plot and the story-line lacked substance. So, I am just sticking to this movie, where he showed his true potential as a great director. Every scene, in his movie was well-shot, which as a result enhanced the feel of every moment in the movie. He placed focus in the right scene and remained true to the home-video like quality for most of the movie, which made it a great watch.
This movie is truly an artistic marvel where it allows its audience to just sit back and look at the passing lives of young people in the 90’s objectively. The point is that the struggles that these youngsters went through that time, is still relevant today; the questions that they were asking themselves, remains unanswered, which makes me love this movie all the more. This movie is highly recommended if you are a person who loves to people-watch and, occasionally, likes to dive into the philosophical aspects of life.
Moreover, if you like good music, you will listen to all the songs in this movie. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have been such a huge fan of songs, like ‘When you come back to me’ by World Party, ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack, ‘Spin the bottle’ by Juliana Hatfield, ‘Bed of Roses’ by The Indians, ‘Going Going Gone’ by The Posies and, my personal favourite, ‘Stay (I Miss You)’ by Lisa Loeb. I know, I am not supposed to say this, but if you don’t want to watch the film, do listen to these songs. I guarantee you will add at least two songs as your favourite.
I hope you enjoyed reading this review, as much as I loved watching this movie and sharing my views with you. I hope you watch this movie and share your experience in the comments in the comment section below. Keep following Read & Reels for many interesting book and movie reviews. Do check out our movie review blog, Movie Anatomie, where you will find me rant like this on many amazing and non-amazing movie.
Cheers to the art(s) of storytelling!