The giant size Big Gulp from the Seven Eleven is the spark plug of their diet, and TV talk shows are their drug of choice.
"Reality Bites" serves notice that the current twenty-somethings are entering full-blown rebellion against the establishment. And who is the establishment these days? None other than the teenagers who bored the world as the "Me Generation" of the '70s. Raging at living in their shadow, Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder) nails them as the generation that "disavowed their revolution for a bunch of running shoes," and howls her vow that she will "not work 80 hours a week to buy their BMWs."
Lelaina and her friends Troy, Vickie and Sammy head straight from graduation into the video she is making of their young lives. They may lack identity but their culture is shot through with irony, and she's catching it all on tape. Their mileposts are The Gap, exploding air bags and a band called "Hey That's My Bike." The giant size Big Gulp from the Seven Eleven is the spark plug of their diet, and TV talk shows are their drug of choice. Diet Pepsi is the measure of their anger at the purity of their parents' Evian water.
They navigate the junk culture that is their heritage with sparkling comic insights. Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) can be counted on for capturing the essence. "I think I was conceived on an acid trip," she remarks at a low point between her AIDS test and a gene pooling seminar.
Lelaina and Vickie grant temporary shelter to Troy, a lover of literature who hides his I.Q. under a fashionable stubble and a cynical facade. He has been fired from twelve jobs, once for stealing a Snickers bar. The emotional tension between Troy and Lelaina is brought to a boil by the arrival of Michael, who has come to court Lelaina and lure her to his world of commercial television, where he is a comer with the show "In Your Face," an MTV look-a-like with an edge.
With the love triangle as its centerpiece, the empty culture dominates the movie in terrific style. They are young without presence or cause, trying to become something in a vacuum. Rebellion against boring parents is not, after all, the stuff of progress. We've "got a pothead mother and a cokehead dad," Troy sings of his parents' youth. It's a pallid incentive. And yet Lelainie keeps fighting to do something good with her life, wondering what good is all about.
Winona Ryder, wearing her feelings all over her expressive face, powers the movie. She has a flip, quick ability with funny lines along with real credibility as a confused kid with heart. Ethan Hawke is terrific as the cynic with a soul, and Ben Stiller, who also directed the movie, makes Michael a very sympathetic Yuppie.
The movie is an appealing slice of contemporary despair that will be outgrown, we know, by this spirited group. The considerable charm of the whole thing stems from a young cast and crew making a film about themselves.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 493
Copyright (c) Illusion
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