Hangover Movie Review: Reality Bites- Movie of a Lost Generation
Reality Bites (1994) focuses on the lives of four recent college graduates who drink, smoke, and sleep around. It’s a movie about the life and love in the post-Baby Boom generation.
Reality Bites opens with a speech in which the college valedictorian Lelaina (Winona Ryder) expresses her general dissatisfaction with the world. Her last words to the friends, parents, and fellow graduates listening to her speech are “There is no answer.” That vague angst is the most consistent plot theme in the film. Lelaina and her three buddies Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), Sammy (Steve Zahn), and Troy (Ethan Hawke) have worthless jobs; play drinking games, and look for love. Lelaina and Troy have feelings for each other, but they haven’t acted on them besides one drunken encounter. Lelaina meets Michael Grates (Ben Stiller-also director of the film) who is production executive at a MTV-like television channel. The two start dating, and a predictable love triangle ensues. A lot of the film features the characters opining about their love lives, slacker friends, and their annoying parents.
Reality Bites has been criticized for its cinematography and soundtrack. It’s filmed as a documentary-in-progress, which does a little to explain the strange camera angles and poor framing. The whiny pop-songs, however, are perhaps less excusable.
Reality Bites has long been hailed as the anthem of Generation X. Most movies that represent this generation feature bored 20-somethings with no direction, no real ambition, and no desire to start a career, home, or family. The youth of this era would rather waste time philosophizing than do anything productive. Generation X was creative, cynical, overeducated, looking for love in all the wrong places and tired of being told they’re over privileged whiners who don’t know what real problems are. Generation X witnessed the rise of the yuppies and the burst of the dot-com bubbles. Situated in between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, Generation X is largely ignored these days. During the 90’s, though, Generation X had a brief moment in the spotlight. Dozens of movies like Reality Bites were released, showcasing the underemployed, overeducated, and hopeless Gen X-ers. This is the generation that refused to grow up. The ones who swore they would not end up like their parents. This is the first generation to say to their parents “We don’t want what you have.”
By all accounts, they didn’t get it. This is the first generation to make less than their parents did, reversing a historic trend. Between the Baby Boomers making headlines for every new stage of life they enter and the millenials Facebook-ing, Tweeting, and YouTube-ing everything they do, Gen X toils away in relative ignominy. New studies suggest, however, that this generation is relatively happy, family-oriented, and balanced, dispelling the stereotype of the materialistic, disenfranchised, and lazy youth born in the early 60’s to the early 80’s. So perhaps, there is an answer and maybe even some hope for the Gen-Xers after all.