The brainchild of actor-cum-director Ben Stiller and starring Winona Ryder, the very with-it effort addresses the trials and tribulations of the potentially disenfranchised -- that is, those recent college grads frustrated by the recession-wracked job market of the early 90's.
Optimistically, these young folks are merely our most recent lost generation. Pessimistically, they are, alas, on the downward cusp of an economic mindset born of the post W.W.II boom.
Winona Ryder, one-third of a love triangle played to the backdrop of the apres-Yuppie tapestry, stars as spunky and winsome Lelaina Pierce. Recently the valedictorian at a Texas university, she now shares an apartment in suburban Houston with three friends while working as an assistant at a local TV station. Career-wise, her passion is the documentary. In fact, the first twenty minutes of Reality Bites is comprised of Lelaina's flow-of-consciousness video ruminations, a bit offsetting when we know not who is who, what is what and we're being bombarded with all manner of arrogant flippancy.
But give the flick a half-hour and it becomes clear just what Stiller is doing. Although it would be both simplistic and heretical to make a comparison between The Graduate and Reality Bites, suffice it to note that the latter is also successful in distilling for view the thought processes of a particular time and place, albeit without the watershed genius of the former.
In the case of Reality Bites, the culture in question is that group which the marketing gurus have labelled Generation X -- while they subscribe to middle-class tastes, mores, and folkways, they haven't the checkbook to match.
Skirting along the fringe of this society is handsome Ethan Hawke as roommate Troy, a moody and sexy intellect who's too smart to be a rebel without a cause and too imaginative not to be. He and Winona's character are soul mates that have thus far shied away from romantic entanglement. But the tension is thick, and becomes further complicated when Lelaina meets Mike Grates, a well-coiffed and good-intentioned bit of the establishment portrayed by Stiller. Just a few years older but with both feet firmly planted in the means of production, Mike is a video producer for the very commercial In Your Face TV. He could do wonders for Lelaina's professional ambitions, and that tacitly understood truth becomes more inviting after Lelaina loses her job.
However, the heroic gal has beaucoup de integrity, and she'll prove it until it hurts. While she and Mike initially make nice, Troy and the success track guy inevitably rub each other the wrong way.
The vernacular that makes up the inventive glossary of this motion picture's verbal appeal is primarily inspired by a love/hate/nostalgia for 1970s pop culture -- specifically as a backlash to the broken promises that have long emanated from the jingle-jungle of Madison Avenue. For example, shooting a video, Lelaina asks Troy how he feels. His retort? "Burstin' with real fruit flavour!"
Innumerable, rapid-fire references to things media populate the scenario with entertaining verve; coupled with acerbic, tongue-in-cheek swipes at the American Dream, the seriocomic witticisms presented in Reality Bites provide a comedic sociology lesson you can sink your teeth into.